Dear Dr. Boli: I’ve been feeling like a failure as a dog owner because I’m not paying enough for dog food. Calvin Coolidge, my Dobermoodle, eats mid-priced dog food from the supermarket, but my neighbor (who keeps parrots, by the way, but she has opinions on everything) says I should be feeding him that expensive all-meat dog food, because dogs are wolves, and wolves are evolved to eat meat. Am I cheating poor Cal on his food? —Sincerely, A dog lover, but not sure how much of a dog lover.
Dear Sir or Madam: Your neighbor’s assertion is based upon an insufficiently nuanced understanding of canine evolution. It is true that many taxonomists consider the domestic dog to be a subspecies of wolf. (Others do not, so you must be careful about the seating whenever you invite taxonomists to a party.) But the dog has had tens of thousands of years to diverge from the wolf. Dogs evolved from those wolves who learned to stick by the humans and eat the things the humans tossed aside. In other words, the contents of your garbage can are what your dog is evolved to eat, and supermarket dog foods are carefully formulated to provide a close approximation, nutritionally speaking, of your garbage. Your dog Calvin is well fed.