Scientists who study canine origins seem to fight about everything: where dogs arose, when this happened, and even the best way to find these answers. But there’s one thing most of them agree on: how dogs became domesticated. Still, it’s taken almost a century to get here, and the details are still emerging.
So what did happen? Most experts now think dogs domesticated themselves. Early humans left piles of discarded carcasses at the edges of their campsites—a veritable feast, the thinking goes, for wolves that dared get close to people. Those wolves survived longer and produced more pups—a process that, generation by generation, yielded ever-bolder animals, until finally a wolf was eating out of a person’s hand. Once our ancestors realized the utility of these animals, they initiated a second, more active phase of domestication, breeding early canines to be better hunters, herders, and guardians.