From Wolf to Dog
Lesson Overview

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TIME ALLOTMENT: Two 45-minute class periods


During this video-enhanced lesson, students will learn that all dogs came from one ancestor- the wolf. Students will watch and discuss video segments from the NATURE film “Dogs that Changed the World,” and explore different theories about how this transformation happened. Students will learn about different breeds of dogs and create a book with pictures and information about a variety of dog breeds. In the culminating activity, students will interview a dog owner and create a poster and/or a presentation about his/her dog.



Access the streaming and downloadable video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.

Clip 1: From Wolf to Dog

Reflections about the transformation from wolf to dog

Clip 2: The Speed of Change

Exploring the speed of evolution

Clip 3: Today’s Dog

A quick look at the dogs of today


American Kennel Club

This Web site includes information about the internationally-recognized breeds.

National Geographic Web sites’ Animal Section
This Web site features many photos of animals including photos of dogs and wolves, which can be used in this lesson.


National Science Education Standards, Grades 5-8

LIFE SCIENCE: Content Standard C

As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of

  • Regulation and behavior

o       An organism’s behavior evolves through adaptation to its environment. How a species moves, obtains food, reproduces, and responds to danger are based in the species’ evolutionary history.

  • Diversity and adaptations of organisms

o       Millions of species of animals, plants, and microorganisms are alive today. Although different species might look dissimilar, the unity among organisms becomes apparent from an analysis of internal structures, the similarity of their chemical processes, and the evidence of common ancestry.

o       Biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations. Species acquire many of their unique characteristics through biological adaptation, which involves the selection of naturally occurring variations in populations. Biological adaptations include changes in structures, behaviors, or physiology that enhance survival and reproductive success in a particular environment.


For each student:

For the class:

  • Photographs of a few very different looking dogs, such as a Chihuahua, a Saint Bernard and a Greyhound. (A good source for these photos is the American Kennel Club Web site.)
  • Two photographs of a wolf (full-body and close-up of head)


Students will be able to:

  • Explain that all dogs evolved from wolves;
  • Discuss theories about how the wolf evolved into the dog;
  • Explain how quickly the transformation from wolf to dog might have happened;
  • Understand how breeding animals for specific traits can result in the altered look and behavior of the descendents of those animals;
  • Describe different breeds of dogs;
  • Discuss the behaviors, skills, appearance and personality of one particular dog and explain whether the dog “fits in” with the general description of the breed.

Prep for Teachers

Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

Preview all of the video segments and Web sites used in the lesson.

Download the video clips used in the lesson to your classroom computer, or prepare to watch them using your classroom’s Internet connection.

Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.

Print out a copy of the “Dog Breed” and “Dog Interview” Student Organizers for each student.

Print out photographs of a few (3-4) very different looking dogs, such as a Chihuahua, a Saint Bernard and a Greyhound. (A good source for these photos is the American Kennel Club Web site.)

Print out two photos of a wolf – a full body shot and a close-up of its head. (One good place to look for wolf photos is the Animal Section of the National Geographic Web site.)

Proceed to Activities

  • Stephanie Rico

    Wonderful! I have been looking for something like this, it is wonderfully done and incredibly helpful. Thank you!

  • DrCole

    Thank you for making it easier to have quality lessons on inherited traits, and to still have them very interesting for my Jr. High kids.

  • htk

    Dogs are wolves. The evolution is retroactive in many ways, as there isn’t one particular separation but many separations and many recombinations throughout. Don’t let the physical fool you, dogs are wolves. They are essentially the same creature genetically.

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