It should be obvious that there is a difference between acknowledging domestic dogs evolved from wolves (which is a widely accepted theory with strong supporting evidence) and saying that dogs essentially are wolves (which is nonsense). Try to picture a pack of pugs or Bichon Frise brining down and savaging an elk, and the impact of artificial selection ought to be quite clear.
Unfortunately, people all too often misconstrue the ancestry of dogs as a justification for extrapolating from what they know (or think they know) about wolves and applying that knowledge to our canine companions. The infamous “alpha roll,” is an example of this. Attempting to establish a healthy, smoothly functioning relationship with your dog by periodically tackling and pinning him or her to the ground, preferably while growling ferociously, is a ludicrous idea that nevertheless managed to gain some popularity at one time on the basis of the argument (grossly oversimplified) that that is how wolves establish stable dominance relationships.
The most prevalent form of this kind of phylogenic fallacy today are some of the canine dietary fads, including raw meat-based or BARF diets, grain-free diets, and so-called “biologically appropriate” feeding. I’ve written about BARF diets, and the fallacious reasoning behind then, before. And I have written numerous times about raw diets and all the reasons why the have no proven benefits and at least some undeniable risks (for example). While the statement that the dietary needs of dogs may be similar to those of wolves in some ways, based on their phylogenetic relationship, is perfectly reasonable, the claim that one can accurately predict the optimal diet for dogs based on what wolves eat in the wild is simply nonsense. The dietary needs of dogs have been shaped by many factors, not least among them their long association with humans, and they need to be worked out through thorough and rigorous scientific research, not speculation and the appeal to nature fallacy.
An example of the kind of research that we need, which also shows in specific and relevant ways that dogs are not wolves, is a recent study reported in the journal Nature:
Erik Axelsson,Abhirami Ratnakumar,Maja-Louise Arendt, Matthew T. Webster,Michele Perloski,Olof Liberg,Jon M. Arnemo,Kerstin Lindblad-Toh.. The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaption t a starch rich diet. Published online January 23, 2013. doi:10.1038/nature11837
The study consisted of a thorough comparison of dog and wolf genomes, identifying a number of differences related to the domestication process. Many of these differences have to do with genes involved in brain development and function, which will hopefully help us to better understand the behavioral differences between dogs and wolves related to domestication. But a significant subset of the genes found to be different between dogs and wolves involve the digestion of starch. Starch was an important energy source for humans at the time of the domestication of the dog, and so dogs adapted to the available food in ways that distinguish them from their more carnivorous ancestors.
Our results show that adaptations that allowed the early ancestors of modern dogs to thrive on a diet rich in starch, relative to the carnivorous diet of wolves, constituted a crucial step in early dog domestication…The results presented here demonstrate a striking case of parallel evolution whereby the benefits of coping with an increasingly starch-rich diet during the agricultural revolution caused similar adaptive responses in dog and human.
This genetic information, and the already well-known anatomic differences between dogs and wolves, make it clear that domestication has dramatically altered the structure and function of the dog body. Extrapolating from the natural diet of wolves to the nutritional needs of dogs is not reasonable nor supported by the data, which instead indicates that dogs are more suited to an omnivorous diet. The current fad that identifies carbohydrates in general, and grains in particular, as inappropriate and harmful for dogs is irrational and contrary to the clear evidence that dogs are well-adapted to such food sources.