Tag: Canidae

Origins of the Dog, a repeat!

Dogs and humans go back a very long way.

I wrote in my post of the 23rd: “In fact tomorrow I shall republish a post I wrote in 2015 about the origins of the dog!

Well tomorrow wasn’t possible with the sad news of the loss of our cat.

But it is today! It was originally published on the 13th July, 2015 – my how 5 years have sped by!

So here it is again. I suspect many of you have not read it!


The Origins of the Dog.

Dogs and humans go back even further than previously thought.

Humans and dogs were constant companions well before our ancestors settled in villages and started growing crops 10,000 years ago

I have no doubt that thousands of dog owners all around the world must be enthralled by the way that dogs relate to us and, in turn, how we humans relate to dogs. More than once a day, one of our dogs will do something that has me and Jean marvelling at their way of living so close to us.

Then when one starts to reflect on how long dogs and humans have been together, perhaps it could be seen as the direct result of that length of relationship.

Now there’s nothing new in me writing this, after all the home page of Learning from Dogs states:

Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years. That makes the domesticated dog the longest animal companion to man, by far!

Back in May the website Livescience published an article that revealed more about the length of our relationship with dogs. This is how it opened:

Ancient Wolf DNA Could Solve Dog Origin Mystery

by Becky Oskin, Senior Writer

Humans and dogs were constant companions well before our ancestors settled in villages and started growing crops 10,000 years ago, a new study suggests.

Genetic evidence from an ancient wolf bone discovered lying on the tundra in Siberia’s Taimyr Peninsula reveals that wolves and dogs split from their common ancestor at least 27,000 years ago. “Although separation isn’t the same as domestication, this opens up the possibility that domestication occurred much earlier than we thought before,” said lead study author Pontus Skoglund, who studies ancient DNA at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute in Massachusetts. Previously, scientists had pegged the wolf-dog split at no earlier than 16,000 years ago.

The Livescience article referred to results that were published in the journal Current Biology on May 21st this year. One needs a subscription to read the full report but here is their summary:

The origin of domestic dogs is poorly understood [ 1–15 ], with suggested evidence of dog-like features in fossils that predate the Last Glacial Maximum [ 6, 9, 10, 14, 16 ] conflicting with genetic estimates of a more recent divergence between dogs and worldwide wolf populations [ 13, 15, 17–19 ]. Here, we present a draft genome sequence from a 35,000-year-old wolf from the Taimyr Peninsula in northern Siberia. We find that this individual belonged to a population that diverged from the common ancestor of present-day wolves and dogs very close in time to the appearance of the domestic dog lineage. We use the directly dated ancient wolf genome to recalibrate the molecular timescale of wolves and dogs and find that the mutation rate is substantially slower than assumed by most previous studies, suggesting that the ancestors of dogs were separated from present-day wolves before the Last Glacial Maximum. We also find evidence of introgression from the archaic Taimyr wolf lineage into present-day dog breeds from northeast Siberia and Greenland, contributing between 1.4% and 27.3% of their ancestry. This demonstrates that the ancestry of present-day dogs is derived from multiple regional wolf populations.

That summary page also includes the following Graphical Abstract:


I don’t have permission to republish the Livescience article in full but would like to offer the closing paragraphs of this fascinating report.

“It is a very well-done paper,” Perry [George Perry, an expert in ancient DNA at Pennsylvania State University] told Live Science. “This topic is a critical one for our understanding of human evolution and human-environment interactions in the Paleolithic. Partnership with early dogs may have facilitated more efficient hunting strategies.”

If dogs first befriended hunter-gatherers, rather than farmers, then perhaps the animals helped with hunting or keeping other carnivores away. For instance, an author of a new book claims humans and dogs teamed up to drive Neanderthals to extinction. Skoglund also suggested the Siberian husky followed nomads across the Bering Land Bridge, picking up wolf DNA along the way.

“It might have been beneficial for them to absorb genes that were adapted to this high Arctic environment,” Skoglund said.

This is the first wolf genome from the Pleistocene, and more ancient DNA from prehistoric fossils could provide further insights into the relationship between wolves, dogs and humans, the researchers said.

Yes, our dogs have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time – and Jean and I, as with tens of thousands of others, can’t imagine a world without dogs.


They are our supreme companions. They don’t judge. They don’t lie. They are …. well let me repeat what I wrote right at the beginning of the blog.

Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.  See an interesting article by Dr. George Johnson.

Because of this closeness between dogs and man, we (as in man!) have the ability to observe the way they live.  Now I’m sure that scientists would cringe with the idea that the way that a dog lives his life sets an example for us humans, well cringe in the scientific sense.  But man seems to be at one of those defining stages in mankind’s evolution where the forces bearing down on the species homo sapiens have the potential to cause very great harm.  If the example of dogs can provide a beacon of hope, an incentive to change at a deep cultural level, then the quicker we ‘get the message’, the better it will be.


  • are integrous ( a score of 210) according to Dr David Hawkins
  • don’t cheat or lie
  • don’t have hidden agendas
  • are loyal and faithful
  • forgive
  • love unconditionally
  • value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
  • are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.

There! Nothing more to say!

The book! Chapter Five

Was there ever a time when I wasn’t writing a book? 😉

Woke this morning worrying that pushing on with the book was not going to be easy (Chapter Eight) but then surprised myself by getting into some sort of groove and in a couple of hours had 1,300 words under my belt by 2pm.

Thus trying to find any connection between mood, fears and creativity doesn’t seem possible – thank goodness!

One other aspect that is coming through is seeing that some of the earlier completed chapters need some adjusting to better link the story to later chapters.  So, I have to admit to a little editing going on, amendments that haven’t been applied to the drafts that have been published on Learning from Dogs.

Thus I’m showing my weakness to want to go back and fiddle with earlier passages against the advice of the professionals in focusing on only one thing: writing!

Ah well, only another 18 days to go!


Learning from Dogs

Chapter Five

Angela took a deep breath. “I guess we need to go back a very long way to get to the start of the story of dogs. Dogs are part of the Canidae species, the species that includes wolves, coyotes and foxes. It’s a species that scientists believe evolved millions of years ago.  The evidence of when dogs and man came together is unclear, as you might expect from something so long ago. But the evidence is pretty clear that when the forerunners of modern man left Africa and started to expand out across Northern Europe and elsewhere, somewhere along that journey we see the first signs of the dog.”

Philip listened, utterly enthralled by Angela’s opening remarks.  As much because Angela’s cosy, easy-on-the-soul personality belied her obvious depth of knowledge of dogs.

She continued, “My understanding, and I’m no scientist, is that our forerunners out of Africa were smarter than the Neanderthals, used language, developed tools and benefitted as hunters enormously because of their relationship with dogs.”

“In fact, I have a fascinating article from a real scientist, an American, George Johnson, who has done a lot of research into the evolution of the domestic dog.  I’ll give you a copy before you leave.”

Philip took a long drink of the tea.  Gracious it went down well.

“Angela, this is utterly fascinating and, yes, would love to read that research article by that American scientist.  But, surely, that can’t have any bearing on today’s dogs?”

“Well, yes and no,” was her reply, going on to say, “Despite dogs these days having no awareness of the natural pack size and dynamics of their doggie ancestors they still carry the genetic imprint, for want of a better description, of the structure, the hierarchies, as it were, of those ancient times.”

Philip had a question come to mind. “What about feral dogs? Surely in some countries the number of feral dogs is huge, don’t they adopt pack behaviours of the early days?”

“That’s a good point, Philip, but even if feral dogs pack together, and they do for hunting and food-seeking purposes, feral dogs are such a mixture of breeds and temperaments that there isn’t a chance of a cohesive group coming together in the way that dogs did way back in earlier times when all those dogs would have been one doggie community.”

“Guess that makes sense,” Philip reflected.

Angela continued, “We are pretty sure that in the early days of dogs evolving from the grey wolf, they maintained a similar social order. George Johnson covers that well in his article. That is in a pack size of around fifty animals the group was guided by just three social differentiations.”

She finished her tea and went on to explain, “There were just three dogs who had a social role, a social status, in the pack. The first role was that of alpha dog, almost predominantly a female dog.  Then there was the beta dog, this time usually a male.  Finally, the omega dog that could be of either gender. That’s what was believed for years.”

Philip reflected how in common parlance the term alpha tended to be associated to the phrase alpha male.

Angela continued. “Recently, however, it’s become clear that these alpha, beta, omega terms and descriptions are a long way from being accurate.  The more appropriate description is to see those roles under the general heading of teaching dogs with the additional sub-division of mentor, nannie and minder.”

“Are you following this?”

Philip immediately replied, “Oh yes, this is absolutely fascinating.  I had no idea at all.”

Angela’s responded, “Well, I’ll finish off for this morning by briefly describing those differences within teaching dogs.

Let’s start with the mentor.  This is a dog that is normally assertive by nature; quietly so. Not dogs that play much, unless flirting with the opposite sex. However, they do build the strongest bonds with other high ranking dogs of the same sex.  In their position as a teaching dog they are dominant but in a way that trainers would describe as passively dominant. So they would always meet a dog with assertiveness but never with hostility. Mentor dogs relax other dogs less with the use of body language as such but more often because their presence just has a calming effect on most other dogs.”

Angela paused, “Philip, can I make you another tea?”

“No, I’m fine.  Far too engrossed with what you are saying to want your flow interrupted by another brew-up!” Angela smiled.

“So, let me finish off describing mentor dogs. Often the mentor dog, when working in a group of dogs, will watch from the sidelines and only become involved if absolutely necessary. And, of course, that necessity is the mentor’s evaluation; almost impossible for us humans to interpret.  As I like to say, dogs speak dog so much better than us humans speak dog!”

Almost as though he were listening and approved Angela’s last observation, at that moment there was a quiet moan of contentment from Pharaoh curled up, as he still was, on the cushion.  Philip, with a bit of a shock, realised that he had forgotten that Pharaoh was even in the caravan with them. Not only in the caravan but sleeping on the cushion just four feet away.  Angela’s words were captivating him.

She had paused on the sound of Pharaoh’s little moan and now continued.

“Mentors can be quite lazy! They have a very interesting and, to a great degree, a rather complex view of other dogs that they come in contact with.  It’s a certain bet that we don’t know the half of it when it comes to understanding the mentor teaching dog.  For example, they will support other teaching dogs where needed, showing, for instance, what to do in difficult situations if that other teaching dog is not coping.  But the mental analysis and language used by the mentor dog in these circumstances is way beyond the comprehension of us humans, even those who have spent a lifetime studying dogs.

The last aspect of mentors, I should say, is that there is a varied reaction from other dogs to a mentor dog. Some dogs take great confidence in a mentor and whilst not necessarily submissive towards them, they are very respectful. But others find a mentor intimidating and will avoid making contact with them.”

Angela paused.

Philip was blown away, to use the modern vernacular term.  Once again, he was dumbfounded that there was so much more to the dog world than he could have ever imagined.

“Want me to carry on with the other teaching dog roles?”

Philip didn’t hesitate for a moment with his reply. “I could listen to this all day.  It’s stupendously interesting.”

“OK, then we have to look at the two other teaching dog roles that we know  exist in today’s dogs.”

Angela kept going, “The minder is totally different to the mentor dog. In the sense of being different in the way they interact with the dogs they are teaching. When a minder meets another dog, they approach with the active intention of interacting with them. The minder dog is naturally assertive, often strongly assertive as your Pharaoh is, but ultimately not as strong as the mentor dog. When the minder dog meets another dog, in a teaching situation, they assess the new dog as it approaches and use appropriate body language in accordance to the other dog’s reaction to them. That makes them frequently more demonstrative than a mentor, and the minder dog will actively seek interaction within a few minutes of meeting a new dog. That interaction does not necessarily mean an invitation to play, far from it. If the minder feels the other dog is not ready for that level of interaction, they will converse with them, dog to dog, in a more subtle manner.”

Angela paused.  “When I think about of all the teaching roles, the minder dog is the one role that is incredibly interesting, with so many different levels of communication going on.”

She continued, “For example, if the other dog is worried but shows signs of being ready to rush at the minder, the minder will stand firmly with their head side on to the dog. Eye contact is made intermittently as the minder determines whether the new dog is calming down or intending to rush at the minder.

The minder can stand firm and openly display assertiveness if they need to. Once the situation is under control, from the minder’s perspective, the minder will generally initiate status type activities from the other dog. Such as by marking then walking away allowing the other dog to investigate the minder’s scent. Or the minder may invite the other dog into a status game, often instigating a chase.”

Angela paused to sweep some grey hairs to behind her left ear.

“Then again, if the other dog shows signs at trying to drive the minder away, the minder will turn their head towards them and eye contact becomes stronger. They do not reposition any other part of their body. If the other dog shows signs of moving away, the minder will totally drop their body language and move away. The minder will then reassess the other dog from a distance, before approaching again.

Finally, and this is what makes the minder such a fabulous teaching dog, the minder will monitor other dogs closely and interrupt any unsociable or unruly behaviour. Unacceptable behaviour is stopped by the minder dog physically placing themselves between the dogs in question and remaining there until the tension has reduced. Once calm has returned the minder will usually walk away and monitor the dogs from a distance. In effect, the minder is policing a group of dogs, for the greater benefit of the whole group. Most dogs recognise a minder as a strong dog and usually respect them. Sometimes polite status games may be played when they first meet. Yet what is fascinating is that the minder dog, while a strong dog, does not naturally command respect in the way a mentor dog does. So you can have a situation where some dogs who have limited canine communication skills or are adolescent can challenge the minder.”

“Bingo!” Philip exclaimed. “Now I know what happened at that class at South Brent. I sensed that the Pit Bull had an unruly personality and Pharaoh’s reaction, I presume, was to signal to the Pit Bull that he was not welcome.”

“That would have been my guess,” Angela confirmed, then continuing, “So let’s look at the last of the three teaching roles, that of the nanny dog.

In many ways, the nanny is the most amazing of all the teaching dogs. Uniquely amongst the three teaching roles, a strong nanny can temporarily take on the role of a minder or even a mentor if needed. They are extremely generous dogs and are at their happiest when everyone else is happy, including other teaching dogs. What is amazing, considering that they can be of the same breed, within the same pack, yet they function so very differently to the mentor and minder teaching dogs.”

Angela scratched an itch on the side of her head, continuing, “The nanny dog not only relaxes a dog who is uncomfortable or anti-social but also extends to helping relax a mentor or minder belonging to the group. Mentors rarely get overly stressed in teaching situations but minders often take their role quite seriously and consequently can become tense when working.  If a nanny dog sees another teaching dog, most often a minder, showing stress the nanny will consciously use their body language to reduce the tension of fellow teaching dogs as well.  That’s why the nanny dog has been called by some as the clown dog.  Not in the sense of clowning around but offering happiness to their fellow group members. It’s fair to say that of all the teaching dogs the nanny dog is more likely to be happy in most situations.”

Philip was in one of those rare emotional places, that of fully and comprehensively embracing the meaning of an aspect of his life.  For evermore, a dog would not be some cute, cuddly pet but the modern, living embodiment of a species that not only has been with man for, literally, thousands of years, but has been instrumental in man’s development for the last ten or fifteen thousand years, most probably many more years before that.

“Angela, I’m practically speechless and, trust me, that doesn’t happen too often.” There was a wry smile on Philip’s face that connected with Angela.

With the corners of Angela’s mouth turned up in harmony with Philip’s mood, she said, “I’m so pleased.  Despite having seen hundreds of dog owners over my years, I was always puzzled by how few were motivated to understand, thoroughly, what makes the dog the animal that it is.”

Pharaoh sensed some ending coming along and shuffled up from his prone position on the settee cushion to sitting on his haunches.  He was looking alertly towards Angela.

She continued, “So let’s call it a day at this point.  I’ll tell you what I think your plan should be.”

Angela stood up, stretched her arms and stifled a yawn with her right hand.

“Whoops, apologies, don’t know where that came from!  Been talking too much, I suspect.”

Going on to say, “For a few weeks, why don’t you bring Pharaoh up here once a week, twice a week if you can make it, and we’ll reinforce the owner-dog relationship between the two of you.  It will also give me a chance to get to know Pharaoh better, see how he reacts to some of the poor souls that I see here.”

She added, more as an afterthought, “But have to say that there is very little doubt in my mind that Pharaoh is a beautiful example of a teaching dog; a minder.  I have no doubt that he would be fantastic in that role.”

Philip turned that over for a few moments. “Angela, you need to tell me what the cost of his training would be?”

“Well, normally,” she replied, “I charge fifteen pounds for a training lesson.  But in this instance, let’s just run an open account for a while.  Because, if you are happy for Pharaoh to be a teaching dog in helping sort out the dysfunctional dogs that come to me, then I would be paying you.  Won’t be a lot, I’m here to tell you, but it’s all grist to the mill isn’t it.”

There was a pause before Philip went on to ask. “Angela, what’s your view about walking Pharaoh in public places, such as Totnes High Street, for example?” Going on to add, “I just want to avoid any conflict between Pharaoh and another dog, or, more importantly another person.”

“Good point, Philip.  Of all the teaching dogs, the minder is the one dog that can make instant intuitive judgments of other dogs and other people.  Totally beyond us humans to be in mental harmony with both the speed of a minder dog’s judgmental process and what that dog has instinctively cottoned on to.  So rather than be less than perfectly relaxed when you are out and about with Pharaoh, get Pharaoh comfortable in wearing a full muzzle. They don’t bother them once they associate wearing a muzzle with being out in interesting places.  Don’t leave it on Pharaoh at home or in the car, just put it on when you are going to be amongst people and dogs where there might be the slightest chance of aggravation.”

Angela added, “Mole Valley Farmers over at their store near Newton Abbot have a good selection.”

Philip was, indeed, a very happy man now.

“Oh, hang on a moment, let me get you a copy of that article about the history of the family dog, the article by Dr. George Johnson.”

A few minutes later Philip was swinging the car out of Angela’s yard and starting the return journey to Harberton.

Finding the source of the River Dart would have to wait once again.

2,700 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

Musings on love.

Dedicated to MaryAnne G.

A week ago I started the first of what became four day’s writings about passing the 400ppm CO2 level in the planet’s atmosphere.  As I said in the penultimate post, “In nearly four years of writing for Learning from Dogs, I can’t recall devoting three days of posts to a single subject.

Later that week, I had a wonderful telephone conversation with MaryAnne back in Payson. MaryAnne and husband Ed were among a group of people who did so much to ease our transition into our new home in Arizona.  As part of the process of obtaining my fiancee visa, I was to and fro between Payson and London which meant having to leave Jeannie alone for a number of weeks at a time. So for Jean having to get used to a change of country as well as home and for me wondering if I would ever get the magic piece of paper allowing me and Jean to be married and settle down, having so many loving friends around us was invaluable.

In last week’s telephone conversation MaryAnne spoke so easily about love that I promised her that I would dedicate a post on Learning from Dogs to her.

In fact, rather than one post, I’m setting myself the challenge of writing about love for the entire week, i.e. Monday to Friday.  I will readily admit that over and beyond today’s post, I don’t have more than the vaguest inkling of how the week will pan out.  You have been warned!

But how much better that ‘devoting three days to a single subject‘ should be about love rather than climate change.


Love across the species.

A week ago, we had friend Richard and his partner Julie from England staying with us.  Richard and I go back 40 years and have been wonderful buddies all that time.  Last Monday, I took Richard and Julie across to Wildlife Images just a few miles from the house here in Merlin, Oregon.  As their website explains,

Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center was founded as a non-profit corporation in 1981 by renowned wildlife rehabilitator J. David Siddon. The facility was created in order to provide for the care and treatment of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

and a little later,

The organization’s clinic, animal sanctuary, and education center are located on 24 acres of land adjacent to the wild and scenic section of Oregon’s famous Rogue River. Animals treated at Wildlife Images have included everything from baby squirrels and badgers to American bald eagles.

Wildlife Images release rate of intakes is near 50 percent each year – far above the national average of 33 percent. Animals with permanently disabling injuries that make them unable to live in the wild are integrated into one of Wildlife Images educational programs, either as educational ambassadors, or as permanent residents of the facility.

While we were looking at the animals, along the pathway came a couple of the volunteer staff walking a Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus).

An afternoon walk for Tundra.
An afternoon walk for Tundra.

I was utterly captivated by this beautiful animal.  Her story was that she was born in captivity and owned by an individual who soon decided he didn’t want her!  Not long thereafter Tundra, as she became named, was brought to the Sarvey Wildlife Center in Washington and thence to Wildlife Images when she was just 8 weeks old.

Tundra turned to look at me. I stood perfectly still and quiet.  Tundra seemed to want to come closer.  As one would with a strange dog, I got down on my knees and turned my eyes away from Tundra’s.  I sensed she was coming towards me so quickly held up my camera and took the picture below.

Wolf greets man.
Wolf greets man.

I kept my gaze averted as I felt the warm breath of this magnificent animal inches from my face.  Then the magic of love across the species!  Tundra licked my face!  The tears came to my eyes and were licked away.  I stroked her and became lost in thought.

Was this an echo of how thousands and thousands of years ago, a wolf and an early man came together out of trust and love and started the journey of the longest animal-human relationship, by far?

As I write elsewhere on this blog,

Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.

Let me close the first day of these musings by coming forward all those thousands of years to the year 2012.  To the 6th April, 2012.  To the day that we brought puppy Cleo back home.  That sweet little creature of less than ten weeks of age starting her own journey of love across the species.

10-week-old little Cleo experiencing Jeannie's love for her dogs.
Little Cleo being loved from the start.

It really is a very simple message!

Repeat after me: We are of this planet!  It’s really very simple!

There are times when I look back at my writings on Learning from Dogs, now well over 1,500 posts (1,633 as of today, to be anal about it!) and ponder if the fundamental message behind the name of the blog often gets overlooked.  The Welcome page states:

As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer. Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming, thence the long journey to modern man. But in the last, say 100 years, that farming spirit has become corrupted to the point where we see the planet’s plant and mineral resources as infinite. Mankind is close to the edge of extinction, literally and spiritually.

Dogs know better, much better! Time again for man to learn from dogs!

Elsewhere on the blog, I underpin that proposition by listing the attributes of dogs:


  • are integrous ( a score of 210) according to Dr David Hawkins
  • don’t cheat or lie
  • don’t have hidden agendas
  • are loyal and faithful
  • forgive
  • love unconditionally
  • value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
  • are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.

Now this is all fine and dandy but of what relevance is this to the mess that homo sapiens now finds itself in? Two parts to that answer come to mind.

The first part is that watching a dog out in the open countryside quickly brings home the fact that these animals are part of nature and, if push comes to shove, can live in the wild and fend for themselves.  Not saying that a domestic dog would enjoy the experience but that their wild dog and grey wolf roots still rest somewhere in a dog’s consciousness.

The second part of the answer is that all animals instinctively live in harmony, in balance, with their surroundings; with their environment.

For the incredibly obvious reason that dogs, as with all other animal species, are an evolutionary consequence of the natural history of Planet Earth.  That evolutionary journey from the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) part of the Canidae family, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  That journey all the way to the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris).

That ancient journey where the African wild dog (Lycaon pictuspainted dog) came together with early man. No one knows when but the African wild dog was certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago!

Two vastly different natural species, dog and man, evolving compatibly with each other for so many thousands of years.

Back to the attributes of dogs, in particular a dog’s ability to cherish the present.  Earlier this week I was chatting with Kevin Dick, friend from Payson, AZ days, about the ‘interesting’ times we are living in.  Kevin thought there was a significant difference between the generations born in the 1940’s and 1950’s and those born in later times.  Most people over the age of, say 55, were brought up to save for ‘a rainy day’ and, possibly, be able to leave a legacy to their offspring.  Kevin then went on to reflect that more recent generations exhibit a ‘buy today, don’t delay’ mentality.

A by-product of this materialistic instant gratification approach is that the whole damn consumer machine has created a total disconnect with the fact that we humans are of this planet.

The earth is the mother of all people..

(Chief Joseph 1840 – 1904, leader of the Wallowa band, a Native American tribe

indigenous to the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon)

Humans today fail to comprehend this fundamental fact: Our ability to harm the planet and think that it won’t affect our species is complete madness!  If only we could learn how to cherish the present in the way that our dogs do!

I’m now going to offer an essay from John Hurlburt.  I knew John had written this essay but didn’t get round to reading it properly until I had finished the introduction above.  I’m blown away by the resonance between the two but, as always, John’s words are so much more eloquent.

Inside Out

Climate change, religion, economics, government, politics and social issues are topics which create strong personal opinions and cultural divisions. We have difficulty accepting ideas which may conflict with our personal understandings. As usual, it’s an ego thing. The arrogance of our species is inclusive. We all suffer the consequences.

To counter our ego, we know that everything fits together. We exist in a unified cosmos with fluctuations and diversities that emerge around and through us.

Our present transformative state is as a biological form of energy and matter which possesses a conscious awareness of the natural order. We choose to ignore or deny the essential nature of our being at our own peril. Do we live only for the moment or do we live to insure our species future? That’s our fundamental choice.

Seek the truth and identify the common good.” Zoroaster [also known as Zarathustra, Ed.]

We are a consciously aware component of a living world in an isolated corner of a remote galaxy. Everything within and on the earth has an extraterrestrial origin. We live on an incubator we call the earth. We rarely truly communicate with or fully understand the energy of nature in our lives. Our critical thinking ability has become enveloped by an electronic cloud.

We generally agree that the actions of many religions and most politics are based upon short term human interests rather than upon the long term well being of our planet and its disappearing life forms. The fact is that we only began to emerge as a species about 100,000 years ago. Hubble telescope observations have dated our universal origin to roughly 13,002,000,000 years ago.

Could it be that we only imagine ourselves as independent beings? Could it be that beyond the mind games we play there is a vast reality greater that we can understand with our limited sensory apparatus and our finite minds?

Life is a transformative experience. All species, tribes, races and genders are united by the nature of life. We pass through a period of being selfish and ambitious during our journey. Many of us choose to move into these familiar ruts and furnish them. We do not always walk the way we talk.

Nature favors species which adapt to constant change in an emerging universe.

If we agree that our intelligence is judged by choices we make, there is some question about intelligent human life on earth. A recent Harvard University study of species in relation to change estimates that the life span of the human species is approximately 100,000 years. Sound familiar?

The wisdom of our brief human history tells us that we are on a careless and needless path to self destruction. All that’s necessary to verify this assertion is to turn on the news of the day. The systemic paradigm that has been imprinted on our psyches is in constant flux. As we live and learn, we realize that our purpose is to leave life better than we found it.

A delicate balance is necessary to maintain an even strain of faith in the natural process rather than dwelling upon our self centered fears of losing something we imagine we own or not attaining something we believe we want. The earth heals itself from the inside out. We can do the same as a species. Today is the tomorrow we dreamed of yesterday. What have we done to fulfill the true purpose of our lives?

an old lamplighter

So, yes, we have much to learn from dogs.

I will close as I started. We are of this planet!  It’s really very simple!

A Chomsky afterthought.

Dogs wouldn’t treat other members of their pack like this.

(I realise how the heading and the sub-heading don’t appear to have any correlation but stay with me please!)

It’s widely known, I’m sure, that the wolf, from which the wild dog and the domesticated dog evolved, lives in packs of around 50 animals.  The size of the pack offers a cohesive, stable structure for the wolf, and other pack species, ensuring group survival and well-being. In a very real sense the way that wolves live is a fabulous example of the power of community.

Just be sidetracked a moment by the following graph, presented on the Berkeley University website:

My understanding of early hominids is pretty basic but if ‘Homo habilis‘ represents the evolution of modern man then our species goes back less than 3 million years.

Compare that with canids. The website WolfWeb states,

The Dog linage began 37 million years ago in North America in predators that had distinctive pairs of shearing teeth and ran down prey. Early canids reached Europe seven million years ago.

Thirty-seven million years!  Now that’s what I call an example of  “group survival and well-being“.  The power of community.

As stated elsewhere on this blog,

Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.  See an interesting article by Dr. George Johnson.

The ten dogs we have here at home are split into two groups of five.  What we call the bedroom group: Pharaoh, Cleo, Sweeny, Hazel and Dhalia, and the kitchen group consisting of Lily, Casey, Ruby, Paloma and Loopy.  Both groups are separated by wooden fences so are more than aware of each other.

Something that is clear is that whenever one of the dogs is hurt, all the other dogs take notice. Others in the same group will come up to their hurt ‘buddy’ and offer comfort in a variety of ways.  Sadly, I can’t give you a better example than our poor Loopy who is suffering badly from the dog equivalent of dementia.

Here’s a picture taken of Loopy on Wednesday afternoon.  You will notice the strange sleeping position that she frequently adopts.  That’s an aspect of her dementia.


The other dogs in her group all give her special attention.  Such as not grabbing her sleeping bed, not pushing or shoving near her, giving her a wide space in general.  The other dogs sense there is something badly awry with Loopy and accommodate that.

So what on earth has this to do with yesterday’s post Who owns the World?  Keep hanging in there!

A recent link in Naked Capitalism‘s daily news summary was to a story in the British Guardian newspaper.  Written by the Guardian’s Kevin McKenna, it was about the likelihood of Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom.

Scottish independence is fast becoming the only option

Even to a unionist like me, an Alex Salmond-led government is preferable to one that rewards greed and corruption

It’s an interesting article and I recommend you read it directly.  But what jumped off the page at me were these paragraphs.  Please focus deeply on the words and ponder on how foreign they are to the concept of community.

Yet we conveniently overlook the fact that London has already broken away from the United Kingdom and now exists as a world super-state governed by the greed of unhindered capitalism and recognisable as British only by its taxis and bad service. As the world’s most newly minted oligarchs continue to colonise the independent state of London, it becomes almost impossible for families on less than £250k to live decently there. Poor London families made homeless by the coalition benefit cuts are being evacuated as far north as Middlesbrough.

Last week, Goldman Sachs, one of the banks with its fingers in the till when global economic meltdown occurred, awarded an average bonus of £250,000 to each of its employees. The gap between the richest in our society and the poorest stretched a little more and we were reminded yet again that the UK government, despite its promises, allows greed, incompetence and corruption to be rewarded. (How many people do you think will go to jail for the Libor rate-fixing scandal?) Meanwhile, Westminster politicians are dividing the poor into categories marked “deserving” and “scum”.

Think a dog is just a cuddly animal that gives you a chance to do some dog-walking?  Again, written elsewhere on Learning from Dogs.


  • are integrous (a score of 210 according to Dr David Hawkins)
  • don’t cheat or lie
  • don’t have hidden agendas
  • are loyal and faithful
  • forgive
  • love unconditionally
  • value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
  • are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.

Now compare that with the last sentence in Noam Chomsky’s essay from yesterday, “As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.

Hatred of the vulnerable“; “those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome” are not expressions that resonate with the values of loving communities.  If we humans want “group survival and well-being” we had better learn from species lupus and canid. Pronto!


The evolution of the domestic dog

Some recent published research shows just how far back goes man’s relationship with the domesticated dog!

First, a big thank you to Merci O. who originally sent me the link to the item that I will refer to later on.  But first, a recap as to the origins of this Blog Learning from Dogs.

Dr David Hawkins of Veritas Publishing, Sedona, Arizona.

Way back in 2007 I was working with a good friend of mine who lives in SW England who, professionally, makes good use of the philosophies of Dr. David Hawkins.  David Hawkins has written a number of books including Truth vs Falsehood: How to Tell the Difference which I read a few years ago and found very convincing.  Here’s how Amazon describes the book,

The exploration into the truth of man’s activities is unique, intriguing, and provocative. From a new perspective, one quickly grasps the levels of truth expressed by the media, the arts, writers, painters, architecture, movies, TV, politics, and war, as well as academia and the greatest thinkers and philosophies through the ages and up to present-day science and advanced theories of the nature of the universe. Most importantly, the ego and its structure are revealed to facilitate the understanding of religious and spiritual truths expressed by the mystics and enlightened sages over the centuries. It becomes apparent why the human mind, unaided, has been intrinsically incapable of discerning truth from falsehood. A simple test is described that, in seconds, can solve riddles that have been irresolvable by mankind for centuries. This book delivers far more than it promises.

Here’s the description of the book on David Hawkin’s website,

Reveals a breakthrough in documenting a new era of human knowledge. Only in the last decade has a science of Truth emerged that, for the first time in human history, enables the discernment of truth from falsehood. Presented are discoveries of an enormous amount of crucial and significant information of great importance to mankind, along with calibrations of historical events, cultures, spiritual leaders, media, and more.

A science of consciousness developed which revealed that degrees of truth reflect concordant calibratable levels of consciousness on a scale of 1 to 1,000. When this verifiable test of truth was applied to multiple aspects of society (movies, art, politics, music, sociology, religion, scientific theories, spirituality, philosophy, everyday Americana, and all the countries of the world), the results were startling.

Trust me, I am (slowly) getting to the point!

Dr. Hawkins created a ‘map’ of those calibrated levels of consciousness, see details of that map here.  Also, it wasn’t too difficult to find a plain B&W version on the Web, reproduced below.

As you can see when you study the map, the boundary between ‘truth’ and ‘falsehood’ is the calibrated level of 200, the blue line in the above described as ‘The beginning of integrity’.

Anyway, back to my psychotherapy friend, Jon, in SW England.  When I used to visit him, I always had Pharaoh with me and he would settle down behind my chair and let the human talk just flow over him, happy at some dog level to be included.

One day Jon was talking about the different levels on consciousness and looked over at Pharaoh asleep on the floor and said, “Do you that dogs are integrous!”  I responded that I didn’t know that, please tell me more.

Jon continued, “Yes, dogs have been calibrated as having a level of consciousness in the zone of 205 to 210.”

Wow!  What a revelation, that in a way didn’t strike me as foolish.  After 4 years of having Pharaoh as my companion, qualities such as unconditional love towards me, trust, courage, integrity and forgiveness were an obvious part of his character.  See where those levels and emotions appear on the map above.

Later back home, I was idly browsing domain names and saw that ‘learningfromdogs’ was available!  Little did I realise then that in September 2008, Pharaoh and I would move out to live with Jeannie and her 12 other dogs in San Carlos, Mexico and subsequently in February, 2010, all of us move to Payson, Arizona.  I started writing the Blog Learning from Dogs on July 15th, 2009 when still down in Mexico.

Still awake out there? 🙂

As part of my research into the domesticated dog in the early days of putting the Blog together, I explored the science behind the separation, or perhaps better described as the evolution, of the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) from the wolf (Canis lupus). That the domesticated dog was originally a form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora.

As the website, Canine Science, explains,

The basic construction of the dog’s skeleton is the same, regardless of whether it is a Labrador Retriever, aBoxer or a Yorkshire Terrier.

The skeleton of a wolf is identical too.

The skeleton of the wolf.

It was clear that scientists were divided on when this happened.  Some argue it occurred 100,000 years ago, others that it was a far more recent development, closer to 15,000 years ago.   I wrote here under the heading of Dogs and Integrity,

Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.  See an interesting article by Dr. George Johnson.

On the Home Page, I say,

Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years.  That makes the domesticated dog the longest animal companion to man, by far!

As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer.  Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming,  thence the long journey to modern man.

Those words were more of an instinctive assessment than based on hard science.  Now we have the science!

The link that Merci O. sent me was to a recent article on the website, AZ Central, and was headed,

Tamed dogs may go back 33,000 years

by Anne Ryman – Jan. 24, 2012 11:33 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com

Dogs have been “man’s best friend” longer than any other animal. And, as it turns out, longer than previously thought.

A pair of research papers published in the past few years, one most recently by a team that includes the University of Arizona, significantly pushes back the timeline for domestication of dogs from about 14,000 years ago to more than 30,000 years ago.

Researchers at UA and universities in England and the Netherlands used radiocarbon dating to determine that the skull of a Siberian dog was about 33,000 years old. Slightly older dog remains were identified in Belgium a few years ago by a separate research team.

The two findings indicate the process of domestication was occurring in separate regions at a time when early humans, including Neanderthals, in Europe and Siberia were small-group hunter-gatherers. About 14,000 years ago, Neanderthals were gone and humans were more mobile, living and hunting in larger groups.

The latest study’s co-author, UA professor Gregory Hodgins, said the finding broadens the timeline of humans interacting with the natural world. While humans have depended on animals since the dawn of the human species, domestication of animals indicates a symbiotic relationship between the two.

“It suggests living in close quarters and some sort of emotional bond,” he said.

Then just a couple of paragraphs later, came confirmation of my speculative position,

Before the most recent discoveries in Siberia and Belgium, the first signs of dog domestication appeared about 14,000 years ago. At some point, humans began relying on dogs for things like protection, hunting and companionship.

Dogs allowed humans to become a different, more effective predator, said Michael Barton, an Arizona State University anthropology professor who was not a co-author of either recent study. A dog’s keen sense of smell allowed humans to track animals better.

“They give us an edge,” he said.

The article closes,

The UA research on dogs was published recently in Public Library of Science One, a peer-reviewed journal. The team included scientists in Russia, Canada, England and the Netherlands. Research on the Belgian dog was published in 2008 in the Journal of Archeological Science.

It really is worth reading in full and a brilliant find by Merci.  It may be entirely the case that without dogs man could not have evolved beyond hunter-gatherers to farmers.

The oldest relationship of all!

What is the dog?

Time to attempt an answer to this fundamental, well for this Blog, question!


Like wolves, the Dingo is smarter than pet dogs.

(The above photograph comes from an article on ImpactLab – see foot of Post for more details.)

When putting together the Blog ahead of the publication of the very first Post on July 15th, 2009, some 820 Posts ago, I prepared some additional material that set out to justify the Raison d’être for the venture.  Included was a piece regarding Dogs and integrity.  There I wrote:

Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.  See an interesting article by Dr. George Johnson.

Anyway, I revisited the article written by Dr Johnson and thought it worthy of being published in full, as a separate article in Learning from Dogs.  I requested permission to reproduce the article in full and Dr. George Johnson was very gracious in quickly coming back to me giving his agreement.  Thank you.  The original article can be read here, the ONSCIENCE home page is here and Dr. Johnson’s details are here.

Evolution of the family dog

I first suspected that Boswell would have a short life when he bit my wife on our nuptial bed.

Boswell was my dog, a feisty Toto-like terrier who shared my bachelor bed and resented the intrusion of a woman where he felt a dog — Boswell — ought to be. As it turns out, my suspicion was correct, and he did not live out the year, which was 1982. Staying with others while I and my bride were overseas, Boswell resented being denied chicken bones, ate them anyway, and died of the consequences. To this day I miss him.

This week I found myself wondering about Boswell’s origins. From what creature did the domestic dog arise? Darwin suggested that wolves, coyotes, and jackals — all of which can interbreed and produce fertile offspring– may all have played a role, producing a complex dog ancestry that would be impossible to unravel. In the 1950s, Nobel Prize-winning behaviorist Konrad Lorenz suggested some dog breeds derive from jackals, others from wolves.

Based on anatomy, most biologists have put their money on the wolf, but until recently there was little hard evidence, and, as you might expect if you know scientists, lots of opinions.

The issue was finally settled in 1997 by an international team of scientists led by Robert Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles. To sort out the evolutionary origin of the family dog, Wayne and his colleagues used the techniques of molecular biology to compare the genes of dogs with those of wolves, coyotes and jackals.

Wayne’s team collected blood, tissue, or hair from 140 dogs of sixty-seven breeds, and 162 wolves from North America, Europe, Asia, and Arabia. From each sample they extracted DNA from the tiny organelles within cells called mitochondria.

While the chromosome DNA of an animal cell derives from both parents, the mitochondrial DNA comes entirely from the mother. Biologists love to study mitochondrial DNA because of this simple line of descent, female-to-female-to-female. As changes called mutations occur due to copying mistakes or DNA damage, the mitochondrial DNA of two diverging lines becomes more and more different. Ancestors can be clearly identified when you are studying mitochondrial DNA, because clusters of mutations are not shuffled into new combinations like the genes on chromosomes are. They remain together as a particular sequence, a signature of that line of descent.

When Wayne looked at his canine mitochondrial DNA samples, he found that wolves and coyotes differ by about 6% in their mitochondrial DNA, while wolves and dogs differ by only 1%. Already it smelled like the wolf was the ancestor.

Wayne’s team then focused their attention on one small portion of the mitochondrial DNA called the control region, because it was known to vary a lot among mammals. Among the sixty seven breeds of dogs, Wayne’s team found a total of 26 different sequences in the control region, each differing from the others at one or a few sites. No one breed had a characteristic sequence — rather, the breeds of dogs share a common pool of genetic diversity.Wolves had 27 different sequences in the control region, none of them exactly the same as any dog sequence, but all very similar to the dog sequences, differing from them at most at 12 sites along the DNA, and usually fewer.

Coyote and jackal were a lot more different from dogs than wolves were. Every coyote and jackal sequence differed from any dog sequence by at least 20 sites, and many by far more.

That settled it. Dogs are domesticated wolves.

Using statistical methods to compare the relative similarity of the sequences, Wayne found that all the dog sequences fell into four distinct groups. The largest, containing 19 of the 26 sequences and representing 3/4 of modern dogs, resulted from a single female wolf lineage. The three smaller groups seem to represent later events when other wolves mated with the now-domesticated dogs. Domestication, it seems, didn’t happen very often, and perhaps only once.

The large number of different dog sequences, and the fact that no wolf sequences are found among them, suggests that dogs must have been separated from wolves for a long time. The oldest clear fossil evidence for dogs is 12,000 – 14,000 years ago, about when farming arose. But that’s not enough time to accumulate such a large amount of mitochondrial DNA difference. Perhaps dogs before then just didn’t look much different from wolves, and so didn’t leave dog-like fossils. Our species first developed speech and left Africa about 50,000 years ago. I bet that’s when dogs came aboard, when our hunter-gatherer ancestors first encountered them. They would have been great hunting companions.

I think Boswell would be happy to know his ancestor was a wolf. I doubt, however, I will ever be able to get my wife to overlook the biting as “wolf genetic baggage” inherited from nobel ancestors. In my house, science only stretches so far. © Txtwriter Inc

As so often happens, for reasons quite beyond me, when I am pursuing an article idea something else crops up that is highly relevant to my musings.  This was no exception.

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor describes finding a fragment of dog bone in North America dating back some 9,400 years.  Here’s a flavour of that article.

By Associated Press / January 19, 2011

PORTLAND, MaineNearly 10,000 years ago, man’s best friend provided protection and companionship — and an occasional meal.

That’s what researchers are saying after finding a bone fragment from what they are calling the earliest confirmed domesticated dog in the Americas.

University of Maine graduate student Samuel Belknap III came across the fragment while analyzing a dried-out sample of human waste unearthed in southwest Texas in the 1970s. A carbon-dating test put the age of the bone at 9,400 years, and a DNA analysis confirmed it came from a dog — not a wolf, coyote or fox, Belknap said.

Because it was found deep inside a pile of human excrement and was the characteristic orange-brown color that bone turns when it has passed through the digestive tract, the fragment provides the earliest direct evidence that dogs — besides being used for company, security and hunting — were eaten by humans and may even have been bred as a food source, he said.

Belknap wasn’t researching dogs when he found the bone. Rather, he was looking into the diet and nutrition of the people who lived in the Lower Pecos region of Texas between 1,000 and 10,000 years ago.

The article then, a little later, goes on to say:

Dogs have played an important role in human culture for thousands of years.

There are archaeological records of dogs going back 31,000 years from a site in Belgium, 26,000 years in the Czech Republic and 15,000 years in Siberia, said Robert Wayne, a professor of evolutionary biology at UCLA and a dog evolution expert. But canine records in the New World aren’t as detailed or go back nearly as far.

Darcy Morey, a faculty member at Radford University who has studied dog evolution for decades, said a study from the 1980s dated a dog found at Danger Cave, Utah, at between 9,000 and 10,000 years old. Those dates were based not on carbon-dating or DNA tests, but on an analysis of the surrounding rock layers.

“So 9,400 years old may be the oldest, but maybe not,” Morey said in an e-mail.

Morey, whose 2010 book, “Dogs: Domestication and the Development of a Social Bond,” traces the evolution of dogs, said he is skeptical about DNA testing on a single bone fragment because dogs and wolves are so similar genetically.

My last extract is as follows:

Darcy Morey, a faculty member at Radford University who has studied dog evolution for decades, said a study from the 1980s dated a dog found at Danger Cave, Utah, at between 9,000 and 10,000 years old. Those dates were based not on carbon-dating or DNA tests, but on an analysis of the surrounding rock layers.

“So 9,400 years old may be the oldest, but maybe not,” Morey said in an e-mail.

Morey, whose 2010 book, “Dogs: Domestication and the Development of a Social Bond,” traces the evolution of dogs, said he is skeptical about DNA testing on a single bone fragment because dogs and wolves are so similar genetically.


Finally, going back to the photograph at the top of the page, this came from an article here in ImpactLab.  It’s well worth a read.