We're (and I mean me, too) constantly talking about dogs as if they were not just descended from wild wolves thousands of years ago, but as if each and every puppy emerges into this world with some kind of species memory of what it's like to be a wolf. I'm not talking instinct; many pet owners and trainers act as if each dog has a literal memory of everything a wild wolf is and they way they're supposed to act. And what's more, it's like we think all dogs long for that imaginary state of wolfness in a conscience way.
How many times have you looked at a content dog and said something along the lines of, "oh look, she's happy because she's with her pack."
When my dog barks out the window, we say, "oh look, she's warning her pack of danger!"
When dogs play, we constantly evaluate their technique, and the meaning behind every move: "Oh, Dot sure was the dominant bitch, there."
Puppies don't just play, they 'play fight'. When dogs dig, they're either 'digging a den' or 'hunting'.
I'm not trying to argue these things aren't accurate. Most are to varying degrees. But you don't see humans constantly comparing ourselves to our ancestors of thousands of years ago, or to our wild cousins. It does pop up a lot in our culture (nearly everyone knows basically what 'fight or flight' instinct means, for example), but we don't burden ourselves nearly as much with ancestral baggage as we do our dogs (probably partly because many of us, even if we don't outright disbelieve in evolution, like to pretend we're above its influence).
When my husband makes the bed, I rarely say "Aw, how cute, you're building your nest for the night so we can be safe from predators". When I'm preparing to cross the street, I (usually) don't try to find analogies in the 'natural' world ("is the speeding car a predator trying to kill me, or a mindless hazard like a falling tree?") I certainly don't use those analogies to make a decision about when it's safe to cross. I'm not constantly thinking, "what would Australopithecus do in this situation?"
So these sorts of ideas are based in fact (unless you're basing your philosophy of dog behavior on old, outdated misinformation about wolves, of course, then you're really just making sh*t up) . But I guess my question is, why the rhetoric? Why the CONSTANT need to compare our dogs to wolves? They may be very closely related genetically, but their lives and social structures and expectations are very different. We call them dogs to differentiate them from their wild cousins for good reason. Although there is a lot of grey area around the edges, most people know a dog vs. wolf when they see one. Why constantly load each and every twitch of the tail, and flicker of the eye with that wolf-baggage. Why can't we just let them be dogs?
Or better yet, individuals.
Some individual dogs would be perfectly happy hunting their food in a pack and living outdoors 24/7. Others, if let feral, would prefer scrounging human garbage dumps. Many dogs wouldn't make it a week without humans. Some dogs prefer the company of humans, and indeed seem to understand them better than other dogs, some only thrive when other dogs are around. Some dogs respond strongly to food, others to affectionate touch. Some can't stand eye contact with a human, some could stare in your eyes all day. Some dogs bark at everything, some never bark at all. Some dogs grow to 100lbs, have erect ears and a shedding coat; others never reach 10 lbs, have floppy ears and a snout so foreshortened they can't chew or breathe properly.
With all the flexibility in physical form and personality that dogs show, why would people try to constantly fit dogs into a sort of generic Wolf-with-capital-W stand-in.
There is definitely value in learning about dogs' and humans' evolutionary past. But I think it gets over-used as a philosophy. Much like evolutionary psychology. There's got to be a balance between seeing a dog as an individual, and as a Wolf . I think the best dog trainers understand this.