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15 Differences Between Dogs And Wolves

Updated on January 2, 2018
The Dogs and Wolves
The Dogs and Wolves | Source

The Dogs and wolves are the members of same biological family “Canidae". And because of their close genetic similarity, they share many physical traits but their characteristics vary. Whether dogs are the most admired and reliable domesticated animals, wolves are yet wild and unpredictable. Even some biologists believe that the dogs were the first domesticated animals, which are descendants of wolves that were domesticated from, an extinct genus that diverged from modern-day grey wolves about 40,000 years ago.

1. Scientific classifications

Dog vs Wolf
Dog vs Wolf

The dogs and wolves are also known by the scientific name “Canid”. The word "Canid" is taken from the Latin word "Canis" that means the dog and the family of “Canids” is called “Canidae”.

Canids evolution history started around 50 million years ago that has two different categories – Cat like (feliforms) and Dog like (Coliforms). Other members of group are, wolves, coyotes, jackals, foxes, Australian dingo, Indian wild dog Dhole and African wild dogs.

Biological classification

Scientific classifications
Higher classification
Gray wolf
Scientific name
Canis lupus familiaris or Canis familiaris
Canis lupus
Life Expectancy
Average 7 years in the wild, 15 years in captivity.
12 to 18 years

2. The Canidae family

The Dog and Wolf
The Dog and Wolf | Source

The Canidae family, of dogs and wolves have the diverse group of 34 species, but the dogs are the only domesticated animals. The domestication history dogs has presence, since 14,700 years ago. Even some scientist and breeders believe, dogs were domesticated around 40,000 years ago.

Interesting facts about Canidae family members

  • Canidae Family members are known as- CANIDs
  • The biggest member of Canidae family is- GRAY WOLF
  • The Tallest Canidae family member is- MANED WOLF
  • The Smallest Canidae family member is - FENEC FOX
  • The most innocent Canid family member is- BUSH DOG
  • The wolf and Dog, both have 78 CHROMOSOMES ( 39 Pairs)
  • The Wolf and dog can interbreed and produce a healthy and fertile offspring.

Physical traits and Characteristics

Wolves are large, sturdy and intelligent than dogs, which have had broader head, powerful muzzle and better smell sense. Also, they are excellent athlete and hunters that need lots of calories. But some dogs may go bigger and taller (like English mastiff and Great Dane) than wolves. Height and weight of wolves doesn't vary much,except some exception like Arabian wolves. But the height and weight of dogs vary widely.

3. Height

Dog vs Wolf : Height comparision
Dog vs Wolf : Height comparision

The average height wolf’s is "80 - 86 Cm", but some wolf’s species like African and Arabian wolves are shorter. But the height and weight of dogs vary, the average height of some small dog breeds is only 17 cm, whether the dogs of bigger dog breeds can reach up to 90 cm.

Average wolf height, 31.40 - 33.85 Inches (80 Cm 86 Cm)

Wolf height, 31.40 - 33.85 Inches (80 Cm 86 Cm)
Wolf height, 31.40 - 33.85 Inches (80 Cm 86 Cm)

The Height of wolves and different dog breeds

The height of dogs, varies from breed to breed, and it's difficult to compare the height of dogs with wolves. The metrics of height of wolves and height of dogs, can help for better comparison.

Heiht Comparison
Minimum Height
Maximum Height
80 Cm
86 Cm
Small dog breeds (Chihuahua)
15 Cm
17 Cm
Medium dog breeds (Average dogs height)
55 Cm
62 Cm
Large dog breeds (great Dane)
76 Cm
90 Cm

4. Weight

Weight (Dog Vs Wolf)
Weight (Dog Vs Wolf)

Though the height of different wolf species is almost same and doesn’t vary much, but their weight varies. The Arabian, Indian and Ethiopian wolves are smaller, and the average weight of Arabian wolves is 25 kg, that can be, as low as only 13.00 kg. Whether the weight of the average wolf is ~38.5 Kg and that can go up to 80 kg. The weight of dogs can be as low as 1.5 kg to 110 kg, and the heaviest English mastiff dog was recorded,110 kg.

Wolves vs Dogs Weight
Minimum Weight
Maximum Weight
30 Kg
80 Kg
Smallest Dog (Chihuahua)
1.5 kg
3.0 kg
Medium Dog (Labrador)
25 kg
36 kg
Heaviest Dog (English Mastiff)
110 kg
155 kg

5. The Paw and track size

The paw tracks of all Canidae family members are similar and it's really difficult to distinguish between their paw track prints, but their paw size varies. Usually wolf's paws are bigger than dogs and other Canidae members, but some bigger dogs can have equal or even bigger paws than wolves. The average wolf paw size is ~4:00 inches, and dog's paw varies in between 1.5 inches to 4.5 inches.

Dogs and wolves paw size:

  • Small dogs - Average 1.0 Inch
  • Large dogs - Average 4.5 Kg
  • Wolves - 3.5 to 4.5 Kgs

Difference in dog vs wolf paws

  • Wolves are the only Canid members that has bigger "Square shape" paws, that have long, well arched toes. Wolves nail must be dark and all of same color.

  • Dogs paws size can vary, they can have different variety of paws. Their Paw can vary based to dogs size, even they can have different colored nails also.

Paw and track, size and shape of dogs and wolves

Paw and paw track of Canids

Paw and paw track of Canids (Wolves, Coyote, Foxes and Dogs)
Paw and paw track of Canids (Wolves, Coyote, Foxes and Dogs)

The size of Canids

Avg. Paw Length
Avg. Paw Width
4.00 Inch
4.00 Inch
Dog (Small)
0.9 Inch
1.22 Inch
Dog (Large)
3.5 Inch
3.3 Inch
2.5 Ich
2.25 Inch
1.4 Inch
1.25 Inch

6. Dogs and wolves ear

Wolf vs Dogs Ear
Wolf vs Dogs Ear
  • Wolves have small to medium sized, triangular shape, furred and “cupped” ears, that should be set moderately high on the head, whether dogs ears shape and size varies they can have hanging or erected ears, small or big ears.

  • Another major difference in wolves and dog's ears is, most of the dog breeds have rounded ear whether wolves have triangular ears.
  • Even, some dogs have very similar ear like wolves.

The Dogs, which have similar ears like wolves

Wolf Vs Dog Ear (The dogs that have very similar ear like wolves)
Wolf Vs Dog Ear (The dogs that have very similar ear like wolves)

7. The hearing capability of dogs and wolves

Wolf Ears
Wolf Ears | Source

The dogs and wolves, they both have excellent and much better hearing capability than humans and other animals,

Wolves: The hearing capability of wolves is much better than dogs, they can hear the voice frequency:

  • Low as 25 Hz and higher up to 80,000 Hz.

Dogs: Dogs have comparatively low hearing capability, they can hear the voice frequency:

  • Low as 50 Hz and higher up to 45,000 Hz.

Comparative hearing capability

8: Dog vs Wolf: Eyes and Night vision

Dog vs Wolf: Eye and vision
Dog vs Wolf: Eye and vision | Source
  • Wolves have almond shaped eyes that can be pale yellow, amber and green but never brown, blue or black eyes are considered as a genetic default.

  • The eye color of a dog's varies, they can have blue, dark brown, and black eyes. Even some rare dog breeds, can have white eyes also.

  • Dog's eyes are bigger than wolves, but wolves have better night vision. (Dogs night vision is average, but wolves night vision is excellent)

  • Wolf pups are born blind and deaf, even the stage when they begin exploring, they rely on smell.

Eyes and and night vision of Canids

The blue eyes of wolves are considered a genetic default, but some Arctic wolves were spotted with blue eyes, even some wolves have white eyes also. Like the Arctic wolf below-

Rare eye color of wolves

Usually wolves have brown or dark yellowish eyes, but some wolves are exceptions.
Usually wolves have brown or dark yellowish eyes, but some wolves are exceptions.

Eye and vision comparison of Canidae family members

Yellow, Brown, Blue, blue,amber and green
Pale yellow, amber and green
Yellow and brown
Yellow and brown shade
Yellow and brown shades
Eye Size
Medium to Large
Small to Medium
Night Vision
Distance Vision
Angular Movement

9.The Bite force of dogs and wolves

Wolves have higher bite force than dogs, but some dog breeds are exceptions that can have higher bite force than wolves, like the Turkish Kangal. Though it’s difficult to measure the exact bite force of dogs, because dogs don't always bite with the same power. Usually they bite harder, when they’re provoked. Dogs bite force depends to the size of their jaw and muzzle.

Bite force of, wolf vs dog

Wolves (Average)
400 pounds of pressure
Wolves (Maximum)
Maximum, upto 1200 pounds of pressure
Small dogs
120 pounds of pressure
Large/Matiff dogs
556 pounds of pressure
Medium (Average) dogs
220 pounds of pressure

Bite force of dog breeds

dog bark
dog bark | Source

The bite force of dogs varies from breed to breed and bite intensity is proportional to their body and head size. The bite force of some small dog breeds is only around 100 pounds of pressure, but the bigger dogs of mastiff category have average 300+ pounds of bite pressure. Even some dogs like Turkish Kangal dogs, have bite force more than 700 pounds.

Bite force of domestic and wild dogs

Dog Breeds
Bite force
120 pounds of pressure
Mastiff dogs
556 pounds of pressure
American Pitbull
235 pounds of pressure
German Shepherd
238 pounds of pressure
American Bull dog
305 pounds of pressure
328 pounds of pressure
Kangal (Turkish dog)
743 pounds of pressure
Wild dog
African wild dog
317 pounds of pressure
Indian wild dog
269 pounds of pressure
Australian Dingo
320 pounds of pressure

The Head and Skull of dogs and wolves

The bite force of canids proportionally depends of the size of their muzzle and skull. Wolves have stronger bones, and larger brains, teeth and jaws. Whether the size and shape of the dog’s skull and muzzle tremendously vary from breed to breed, The Yorkshire Terrier dog has the smallest skull, whether Russian Wolfhounds have biggest skull, even bigger than average wolves.
Normally wolves have bigger brains and jaw than any other Canids and except foxes and golden jackals, and all other Canids have bigger skull than average dogs.

Shape and size of skull of Dogs Vs Wolves, coyote, fox and jackals
Shape and size of skull of Dogs Vs Wolves, coyote, fox and jackals

The dogs that have similar skull, like wolves

The wolves have bigger and broader skull than dogs, find the comparison below -

  • The average length of wolves skull is - 9.1–11.0 inch) whether full grown dogs have average skull length, less than 6:00 inches. The skull of full grown German shepherd is around 150 mm (6 inch).

  • The width of wolves skull is around 130–150 mm (5.1–5.9 inch), whether dogs have average less than 3.5 inches.

  • And the length of wolves muzzle is around 220 mm (9 inch), whether average length of dogs muzzle is less than 5.0 inches.
  • Some of the dog breeds have like, German shepherd, Husky and Alaskan malamute have very similar brain, skull and muzzle like a wolves.

Dogs that have similar skull like wolves
Dogs that have similar skull like wolves

10. The tail of Wolf and dogs

The wolf has long, bushy, hanging tail that can be of any color. But the shape and size of dogs tail vary, that can be straight, curly or hanging and the length can vary in the range of 8 - 55 cm.

Average tail size of Canidae members

Tail length
8 - 55 cms
29 - 50 cm
30 - 41cm
20 - 30 cms
30 - 50 Cms
Wolf and dog, face to face
Wolf and dog, face to face | Source

The thousands of years of domestication and human companionship have made the dogs to get acquainted with humans and adapt their environment. They are most reliable human companions and are known for their, devotion, friendliness and honesty, whether wolves are still wild, which are shy and unpredictable and doesn't make a reliable pet with children and other small house pets.

11: Friendliness

The Friendliness of dogs and wolves
The Friendliness of dogs and wolves | Source

According to a recent study, published in July 2017- it has confirmed that there are genetic similarities between domesticated dogs and humans with Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS) and the 'friendliness' genes in dogs distinguish them from wolves,

  • Dogs:

    Dogs are friendly animals that like to please their master and be around family. They are easy to train and normally reliable with strangers and small kids.
  • Wolves:

    Whether, wolves are shy, aloof and reserved. Even the pet wolves also avoids the eye contact with humans and owners also, they do not wage tail.

12: Vocal Communication

Wolf and dog howl
Wolf and dog howl | Source

Wolves "Howl" is their natural mode of vocal communication. The wolves Canines can be identified using 21 different types of howling 'dialects', but they rarely yips, and barks to communicate.
But dogs barks and yips, are their natural mode of communication. Though the dogs are successor of wolves and they carry a couple of wolves’ characters and howling is one of them and they also howl. If you will make a howling sound, then it’s possible that your dog will also start howling or when one dog start howl then other dogs will also start howling that reflect their genetic and inherited character.

13: The Trainability


Wolves are exceptionally intelligent and smarter than dogs, but difficult to train because they have a very high pack leader mentality and dominating character, and hardly accept, and respond to the commands.
Though the dogs also have a pack leader's tendency, that varies within the breeds, but comparatively dogs respond to corrective techniques and they are easier to train.

14. Breeding habits of wolves and dogs

Dog vs Wolf: Breeding habits and reproduction
Dog vs Wolf: Breeding habits and reproduction | Source

The dogs and wolves have the similar physical approach and course of mating, but their breeding habits and sexual maturity age differ. And whether wolves have mating hierarchy, dogs do not follow mating hierarchy.

1st: Breeding habits

  • Wolf: Female wolves come into heat only once a year.
  • Dog: Female dog comes into heat twice a year.

2nd: Sexually mature age

  • Wolf: Wolves are sexually mature by the age of 24 -36 months.
  • Dog: Domestic dogs are sexually mature by the age of 6 - 12 months.
    (Except some large dog breeds that may take, 12 - 24 months, like mastiffs and mountain dog breeds.)

3rd: Mating hierarchy

  • Wolf: Wolf maintains the mating hierarchy, Only the alpha female wolf is allowed to breed.
  • Dog: Dogs don't follow any mating hierarchy.

15: Reproduction

Wolf pups
Wolf pups | Source

In comparison of dogs, the reproduction and growth ratio of wolves are very less. Their mating hierarchy and low life span, limits the rate of growth and also their litters have less number of pups than dogs.


  • Wolf: Wolves give life to, 2- 4 pups per litter.
  • Dog: Usually dogs give life up to, 4-8 pups that can be even up to 12 per litter.

Average life span

  • Wolf: Wolves average life span is, 7 years in the wild and 15 years in captivity.
  • Dog: Average life span of domestic dogs is, 10-12 years. Even some dogs can live up to 16 years.

Would you love to own a wolf as pet?

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© 2017 ARADHYA


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    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      10 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I think wolves are such lovely creatures. They're so graceful. I have a dog, I love him to bits. I love how humans and dogs can have such a strong bond.


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