Similarities and differences between dogs and wolves We answer a few burning questions about the link between wolves and our canine companions...

4th October 2023

With their bright eyes and beautiful features, it’s easy to see why wolves remind us of our own canine companions. The connection between dogs and wolves has long been surrounded by mystery, myth, and legend.

We’re about to answer a few burning questions about the link between wolves and dogs – from their genetics to their behaviour – so, read on to find out more…

When were dogs domesticated?

There’s a lot of speculation about the timeline in which dogs were domesticated. Some say it was around 10,000 years ago, while others suggest dogs evolved from wolves up to 40,000 years ago.

Since studies are still ongoing, we can’t yet give a specific answer to this question. We’re just grateful that dogs were domesticated thousands of years ago, because we wouldn’t be without our best fur-iends now!

Genetic similarities between dogs and wolves

Ever wondered whether your precious pooch shares similarities with the mystical yet menacing wolf? Because they do!

Dogs who are similar in size to wolves (e.g. huskies) have a life expectancy of around 14 years – which is the same as a wolf’s life expectancy in the wild.

A wolf has 42 teeth, which is the same as your four-legged pal – although, your pup’s teeth are far smaller. 

Our canine companions have the same amount of chromosomes as wolves, which means they share almost 99% of their DNA with each other!

Also, if your doggo loves digging, they have something in common with wolves, who dig to find food, make dens, and stay cool in warm weather.

Differences between dogs and wolves

Despite their similarities, dogs and wolves differ in many ways:

  • Domesticated dogs are naturally trainable, whereas wolves are not.
  • While your pet puppy started socialising at four weeks’ old, a wolf puppy starts socialising at just two weeks!
  • Your best fur-iend may have the same number of teeth as a wolf, though their jaws are completely different. A wolf’s jaw is much bigger and stronger than a dog’s, because your pooch’s teeth have evolved to eat softer food. 

Can dogs and wolves breed with each other?

Yes, it is possible for dogs and wolves to produce pups!

In fact, there’s a type of canine called a ‘wolf dog’, who has a mix of dog and wolf DNA (making them a ‘hybrid’ species). However, dogs and wolves don’t tend to interact by choice, which means a wolf dog is a human creation that wouldn’t happen in nature.

It’s important to note that wolf dogs are wild animals, so they’re not suitable as pets.

Why do dogs howl?

Howling is perhaps the most recognisable similarity between dogs and wolves. 
Wolves howl to communicate with their pack, though your clever canine companion has developed howling styles to communicate in different ways!

Dogs can howl to let you know they’re anxious or stressed, though they may also howl while singing along with sounds on the TV or ‘chatting’ with you.

Dog breeds similar to wolves

If you were asked to describe a dog who looks like a wolf, you’d probably say the Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky, or Czechoslovakian Vlcak (CSV). 

However, there are other dog breeds who are genetically similar to wolves that might surprise you: 

  • Shih tzu.
  • Pekingese.
  • Shiba Inu.

Does your dog do anything that reminds you of a wolf? Let us know via Facebook or Instagram!

More on our dog blog

Read more news articles, opinion pieces, reviews and personal stories behind our dogs on our blog. 


Need dog insurance?

Dog insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your dog gets injured or falls ill.


We know pets

Animal Friends Insurance is a multi-award winning FCA-regulated pet insurer, founded in 1998 to provide industry-leading pet insurance and first-class animal care to create a better life for every animal.
As one of the UK’s largest pet insurance providers, Animal Friends works with vets, veterinary professionals, and partners pioneering the latest veterinary technology & healthcare advancements to achieve our vision.
Our policyholders have helped donate over £8.5 million to more than 800 animal charities worldwide and by educating and inspiring others to act on current events and responsible pet ownership, Animal Friends is driving positive change for animal welfare and conservation.