It may not be what dog owners want to hear, but according to experts interviewed by Live Science, most dogs would do just fine in a world without humans.
Hypothetically, if humans suddenly disappeared, our canine companions would revert to many of the behaviors of their wolf ancestors – behaviors that stray and wild dogs still display. Despite thousands of years of domestication, dogs haven’t lost the ability to hunt and scavenge, so they would likely be able to feed themselves just fine.
In one important way, dogs would fare better without human intervention. Without our attempts to maintain distinct breeds, dogs would mate across breeds, resulting in far more mixed-breed offspring. Over time, natural selection would favor the strongest, healthiest dogs, nearly all of whom would be “mutts.”
While Canis familiaris as a species would survive or even thrive, it’s likely that certain breeds wouldn’t do so well – especially those known for health problems that require human intervention. Dogs with flat faces and short tails (such as pugs) would be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to hunting, as they often have breathing problems, and would lack the ability to communicate social signals without a long tail.
Man's best friend, without man:
- In a world without humans, the line between wolf and dog would likely blur, as is already happening in some parts of Europe where wolves and dogs are known to mate. Both dogs and wolves have the ability to hunt and scavenge, so without the presence of humans, there would ultimately be few differences between them.
- Social interactions with other dogs would replace the playtime and cuddles that pet dogs currently enjoy from their owners. As long as the dogs had a source of food, they likely wouldn't suffer any psychological ill-effects without human companionship.
- Without humans to tell them "no," dogs would happily take up the behaviors that most owners try to suppress, such as urinating to mark their territory, digging, and, of course, having the freedom to go wherever they please.