Can you imagine a world full of dogs, but without humans? After thousands of years of being domesticated, could our four-legged friends survive on their own?
According to LiveScience, not only would they survive, but dogs would probably thrive without us. At least that’s what Jessica Pierce, a bioethicist and writer from the University of Colorado thinks. Pierce is the author of A Dog’s World: Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World without Humans (Princeton University Press, 2021).
Confidently, Pierce told LiveScience, “ I have no doubt that dogs would survive without us. Dogs are descended from wolves and they still have much of the behavioral repertoire of wolves and other wild canids.” As such, a dog’s hunting and scavenging instincts, said Pierce, are only lost, not forgotten.
So What Would a World of Dogs Without Humans Look Like?
Not surprisingly, if every human suddenly disappeared from Earth, dogs would revert to their wild instincts relatively quickly. Unfortunately, years of selective breeding have created some dogs that simply aren’t well-suited to the wild anymore. For example, brachycephalic dog breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs are more prone to respiratory infections and heat stroke.
Additionally, these dog breeds—among others—are generally bred with short tails. Interestingly, Pierce said this can hinder their social interactions with other wild dogs. “Tails are an important part of the communicative toolbox,” said Pierce. As a result, anything that keeps you from communicating or responding to aggressive signals would be harmful and could lead to confrontation.
Without Humans, Who Would Dogs Play With?
What about the companionship that humans offer? Would dogs miss that? Friederike Range, an associate professor at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna who studies both dogs and wolves, doesn’t think so.
Having studied wild dogs himself, Range has observed that without people, dogs will form their own social groups. Perhaps to most dog owners’ chagrin, Range also claimed that dogs consider food more important than human companionship. “If we were to disappear, the food would be the main problem for the dogs, not losing the human as a social partner,” Range said. “As long as they could find food, they would be perfectly happy without us.”
Confirmingly, Pierce also thinks a life without humans is preferable for most dogs. In her experience, most dog owners restrict what their dogs can and can’t do. Such problems are nonexistent for wild dogs. “What they do have that pet dogs lack is freedom,” she said.