Start of a new two-part documentary series in which actor Martin Clunes explores the canine world. He begins his quest by looking at his own three dogs. Can these seemingly almost human companions sometimes also reveal glimpses of something much wilder, much more ancient? Where do they come from?
Clunes's first port of call is Scruffts at London's Earl's Court, to remind us of how dogs have ended up. There are 400 different breeds officially recognised in the world today. All of them have been moulded and shaped by humans through selective breeding, but under the skin, every one of them is genetically the same. In fact, whether it's a Great Dane or a Chihuahua, the creature is 99.8 per cent wolf.
Yet while dogs clearly adore being in the company of humans, wolves are famously elusive. To see for himself what kind of link this wild, much maligned creature could possibly have with our domestic dogs, Clunes heads off to the wilds of Yellowstone Park in the coldest depths of winter. The actor teams up with ranger Doug Smith in the hope of spotting a wolf. A lucky break means Clunes is able to watch a wolf pack feeding off an elk carcass - from a distance, of course.
Clunes still needs to find out what binds wolves to his own pets. Back in Devon he meets expert wolf behaviourist Shaun Ellis, who reveals that a lot of dog behaviour which we interpret as human, is inherited from the wolf's hierarchical pack instincts.
So how did we get from the wild, untamed wolf, to the hundreds of human-friendly, domesticated dog breeds we have today? To find out what the earliest primitive dog looked like, Clunes jets off to Australia. Fraser Island, off Queensland, is one of the best places to see pure-bred dingoes in the wild, unsullied by interbreeding with domestic dogs. Though they look like ordinary dogs, Martin learns from ranger Colin Lawton that you shouldn't make the mistake of trying to be friendly to them: wild dingoes are still wild, and potentially dangerous.
In the heart of the Outback, Clunes learns more about the human-friendly side of the dingo. Because its pack instinct doesn't exclude humans, a dingo pup can be trained to accept and respect humans.
Native Australians see the dingo as a sacred animal, a symbolic creature that played an important part in the Dreamtime formation of Australia's spectacular landscape. They also see the dingo as a wild creature that deigned to join their families, rather than one that was domesticated by man. It's a vivid clue of what first brought dogs and men together - food and warmth for the dog, company and help with the hunting for man.
That's how man and dog first got together. But how did we turn one animal into so many hundreds of wildly different breeds in such a short evolutionary time? Clunes visits a dog museum in Tring to find out.