If you have been reading this blog for a long time, I used to post historical and indigenous accounts of wolves, coyotes, and dingoes being used as working animals. I also would post accounts different breeders of domestic dogs crossing their stock with wolves to improve their strains.
I have long been critical of the Raymond Coppinger model of dog domestication, which posits that wolves scavenging from Neolithic dumps created the dog as an obligate scavenger that then became selectively bred for human uses. In this model, the tropical village dog is the ancestral form of all canines, a position that has emboldened the “Dogs are not wolves” theorists to suggest some tropical Asian Canis x is the actual ancestor of the domestic dog.
This model also posits that all dogs are just obligate scavengers, and unfortunately, this obligate scavenger designation means that what could be otherwise good books and research on dogs essentially denies their predatory behavior.
Last year, I kept hearing about a book that took on Coppinger’s model head-on. This book took Coppinger’s task for having distinct Eurocentric biases and that Coppinger essentially ignored vast amounts anthropological data on how different human societies relate to wild and semi-domestic canids.
So I finally ordered a copy of this book, which is called The First Domestication: How Wolves and Humans Coevolved by Raymond Pierotti and Brandy Fogg. I do recommend this book, but I readily admit that I don’t agree with quite a bit of it. I agree with it more than Coppinger, though, because they rather clearly show massive holes in Coppinger’s model.
Pierotti and Fogg have produced a model that relies heavily upon humans and wolves encountering and then benefiting from a hunting mutualism. Humans have a long history as scavengers, and even today, there are people who follow large predators, including lions, to rob them of their kills. Dholes are targeted by certain people as well, and it is very likely that humans entering Eurasia would have done the same with wolves.
The difference between the lions and the dholes and ancient wolves is that the lions and dholes resent having humans come near their kills. The ancient wolves, however, came to work with people to bring down more prey. These wolves and humans came to be the dominant predators in Eurasia.
Pierotti and Fogg’s model posits the domestication process as beginning with ancient hunter-gather societies. It relies upon the wolf’s predatory nature as an important catalyst in allowing this partnership to thrive.
Further, the authors are rather clear in that our Eurocentric understanding of a clear delineation between wolves and dogs is a rather recent creation. Most cultures who have existed where there are wolves and dogs have a much more plastic understanding of the differences that separate the two or they have no separation of all.
The most compelling analogies in the work are the discussions about the relationships among hunters in Siberia, their laikas, and wild wolves and the relationships between indigenous Australians and dingoes.
In the Siberian laika culture, the dogs have extensively exchanged genes with wild wolves, enough that laikas and wolves do share mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. The laikas (or laiki, as they are known in Russia) do hunt the sable and other small game. They also protect the camps from bears, and in some areas, the laikas are used as not particularly specialized livestock guardian dogs. The authors see these dogs a very good analogy to describe how the earliest people and dogs would have lived. These dogs would have been cultured to humans, but they would still be getting an influx of wild genes as they lived in the wild.
In the dingo example, the authors discuss how these hunter-gather cultures would keep dingo pups and treat them almost exactly as we would our own domestic dogs. They also would use the dingoes to hunt kangaroos, but during mating season, they would allow their companions to leave the camps or stay. They often would leave, but some would go off for a time in the bush and return. This suggests that early humans might not have forced their socialized wolves to stay in camp and that relationship could have been a lot more libertarian than we might have assumed.
These relationships are very different from the scavenging village dogs that Coppinger contends were like the original dogs. These animals are not obligate scavengers. They are hunters, and what’s more, it is their hunting prowess that makes the relationship work.
Further, the authors make a convincing argument that we can no longer use the scientific name Canis familiaris, because many cultures have relied upon wolf-like dogs and dog-like wolves for survival. These animals are virtually impossible to distinguish from each other, and therefore, it would make sense that we would have to allow dogs to be part of Canis lupus.
The authors contend, though I think rather weakly, that dogs derive from multiple domestication events from different wolves. I remain fully agnostic to this question, but I will say that full-genome comparisons of wolves and three dogs that represent three distinct dog lineages suggest that dogs represent a clade. They are still very closely related to extant Canis lupus, especially Eurasian ones, and still must be regarded as part of Canis lupus. Therefore, one does not need multiple origins for domestic dogs from wolves to make the case that they are a subspecies of Canis lupus.
I am, however, quite glad to see that the authors reject this Canis familiaris classification, even if I think the reasoning is better explained through an analysis that shows how dogs fit within a clade called Canis lupus than one that relies upon multiple origins.
Also, one should be aware that every argument that one can make that says dogs are wolves can be applied to coyotes to suggest that they are wolves. Wolves and dogs do have a significant gene flow across Eurasia, but coyotes and wolves have a similar gene flow across North America. The most recent ancestor between wolves and coyotes lived 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, which is far more recent than the proposed divergence between Old World and North America red foxes and the divergence between Qinling and other giant pandas.
I really have no problem thinking of coyotes as being a form of Canis lupus in that a pug is a form of Canis lupus. All the acceptance of this classification does is allow for a positing that this species Canis lupus has thrived because it possesses both phenotypical and behavioral plasticity.
The authors, however, would have a problem with my classification. They make regular reference to red wolves, which have clearly been shown to be hybrids between coyotes and wolves, which themselves are probably better regarded as divergent forms of a phenotypically plastic species. They also contend that coyotes and people have never formed relationships like people have formed with wolves, because coyotes are too aggressive.
However, I have shown on this space that coyotes have been trained to do many of the things dogs have, including pointing behavior. They also have ignored the enigmatic Hare Indian dog, which may have been a domesticated coyote or coydog.
But that said, I think the authors have clearly shown in their text that dogs and wolves are part of the same species.
The authors also make some controversial arguments about dog paleontology and archaeology. One argument they rely upon heavily is that wolves could have become behaviorally very much like dogs without developing all the morphological changes that are associated with most domestic dogs. Some merit certainly does exist with these arguments, but it also puts paleontology and archaeology in a position that makes it impossible to tell if a wolf-like canid found near human camps is a truly wild animal or creature on its way to domestication.
This argument does have some merit, but it still will have problems in those fields of study, because it becomes impossible to tell semi-domesticated wolves from wild ones in the fossil and subfossil record.
However, the authors do make a good case, which I have also made, that argues that the original wolf population had no reason to show fear or aggression towards people. The best analogous population of wolves to these original ones are those found on the Queen Elizabeth Islands of Northern Canada. These large arctic wolves have never experienced persecution, so they are quite curious and tolerant of the humans they encounter. Wolves like these could have easily been the basis for a mutualism that would eventually lead to domestication.
The authors also contend that the reason wolves in Europe are reviled is the result of the Western church’s propaganda that was working against traditional totemic animals of the pagans. Wolves were among those totems, and the church taught that wolves were of the devil.
However, I think this argument is a bit faulty, because Europeans are not the only people who hate wolves. Many pastoralist people in Asia are not big fans of wolves, and their hatred of wolves has nothing to do with the church. The traditional religions of the Navajo and Hopi also do not hold the wolf in very high regard, and these two cultures have been in the sheep business for centuries.
Further, we have very well-documented cases of wolves hunting and killing people in Europe. These wolf attacks were a major problem in France, where notorious man-eating wolves were often named, and they were not unknown in other parts of Europe as well.
The authors focus heavily on the benign relationship between wolves and people, including the wolf that hunted bison calves and deer to feed survivors of the Sand Creek Massacre, but they ignore the stories that do not posit the wolf in a good light.
The reason wolves in Eurasia have sometimes taking to hunting people is really quite simple: Eurasia is a land where people focused much more on domesticating species to create animal agriculture. Agriculture has a tendency to reduce biodiversity in a region, and when people kill off all the deer in an area to make room for sheep, the wolves turn to hunting sheep. If you live in a society in which people do not have ready access to weapons, then the wolves start targeting people. Feudal societies in Europe would have been open target for wolves living in such ecosystems. By contrast, the indigenous people of North America, did not domesticate hoofed animals for agriculture. Instead, they managed the land, often with the use of fire, to create biodiversity of which they could hunt.
The authors do show that dogs and wolves are intricately linked animals. They show that dogs and wolves are the same species. They use many wonderful anecdotes of captive wolves and wolfdogs to make their case, and in making this case, they have made the case clear that dogs are the produce of hunter-gatherer societies and still are conspecific with the wolf.
I do, however, have some quibbles with some of the sources they use in the text. For example, when they discuss Queen Elizabeth Islands wolves, they focus on an account of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas on Baffin Island. She was on Baffin Island for one summer and observed one wolf pack. She is a fine observer of animals, but much of her analysis about dog and wolf behavior is still controversial. The authors also regularly make reference to Cesar Millan as a dog expert, when virtually no credentialed dog behavior expert thinks he is, and to the notorious dogsbite.org website, which is of even more contentious. These authors are making serious and well-reasoned arguments about dog and wolf behavior and relying upon these sources detracted from the work. I would have liked if they had referred to L. David Mech’s wolf observations on Ellesmere or to John Bradshaw as an expert on dog behavior.
I also had some issues with their contention that the Ainu people of Japan are Turkic or Altaic. No one knows exactly who these people are, but they are interesting in their relationship with wolves. Traditional Japanese society, distinct from the Ainu, was actually quite similar to the Siberian cultures that have produced laika dogs that still interbreed with wolves. However, I don’t think anyone still thinks that the Ainu are Turkic or Altaic.
Finally, the authors do make a good case against Coppinger’s model, but they go on to accept Coppinger’s fixed motor pattern dependence model to describe breed specialization. It is certainly true that Coppinger was Eurocentric in his understanding of dog domestication, but both Coppinger and the authors are Anglocentric in their understanding of dog hunting and herding behavior. The authors think this is Coppinger’s strongest argument. I think this is among his weakest. This model states that pointing, herding, and retrieving are all just arrested development of a full predatory sequence. A dog that can point just stalks. It never learns to use its jaws to kill. A border collie stalks but also engages is a type of chasing behavior. It will also never learn to kill. A retriever will run out and grab, but it lacks the killing bite.
The biggest problem with this model is that everyone knows of border collies that have learned to hunt, kill, and eat sheep. I had a hard-driven golden retriever that would retrieve all day, but she would kill rabbits and even fawns.
The Anglo-American concept of specialized gun dogs affected Coppinger’s understanding of their behavior. He never really looked into continental HPRs. For example, Deutsch-Drathaars, the original German variant of the German wirehair, are bred to retrieve, point, track, and dispatch game. Such an animal makes no sense in this model, for it would suggests that an animal that would point would only ever be stuck in that stalking behavior. It would never be able to retrieve, and it certainly would never use its jaws to kill.
A better model says that dogs are born with a tendency to show behaviors, such as exaggerated stalking behavior that can be turned into pointing through training. There are countless stories of pointing dogs that suddenly lost their pointing behavior after running with hard-driving flushing dog. The dog may have been born with that exaggerated stalking behavior, but the behavior was lost when it entered into social interaction. Indeed, much of these specialized hunting behaviors are developed through training, so that what actually happens is the dog’s motor patterns are refined through training rather than being solely the result of being arrested in full. This is why all the old retriever books from England tell the sportsman never to allow his dog to go ratting. As soon as that dog learns to use its jaws to kill, it is very likely that this dog will start using its jaws on the game it is sent to retrieve.
Despite my quibbles and reservations, Pierotti and Fogg have made a convincing case for the hunting mutualism between wolves and humans as the basis for the domestication of dogs. I was particularly impressed with their use of ethnography and non-Western histories to make their case. I do recommend this book for a good case that we do need a new model for dog domestication, and the questions they raise about taxonomy should be within our field of discussion.
Freba Maulauizada story is amazing and appreciatable
BAD RAP Blog
This post is in partnership with Dreft. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby & Bean possible.
Those of you who have been following along for a while likely remember late in the summer of 2016, when our family went through what remains the most difficult time of our lives. For those who do not, our son Emmett, who was a 7 month old baby at the time, had started doing an occasional subtle movement (imagine a little shrug and slight head bob that looked a lot like reflux) that just seemed a little “off” to me. After a few days of this, we took him to his pediatrician who, while not overly concerned, referred us to a neurologist, just in case. Long story short, less than 24 hours later we were in the children’s hospital with a diagnosis of Infantile Spasms, a form of childhood epilepsy that is labeled as “catastrophic” and comes with a very poor prognosis for the vast majority of children who have it. There is, of course, much more to the story. But miraculously, after a week in the hospital followed by several months of intense medication and therapy, Emmett was one of the few (5-10%) who not only beat IS, but has been assessed as completely healthy and developmentally on track. You can see by the photos in this post that he is now a happy, healthy, active, fun, funny toddler, who makes my heart swell beyond words. And for this, I am filled with gratitude.
I’ve gone into more detail of Emmett’s journey with IS here on the blog, especially in the months after his initial diagnosis (if you search for “Emmett” you can find many posts about it), but today I wanted to share something I haven’t gotten into yet; and that’s the emotional experience of our time in the hospital, mainly how the power of scent (yes, scent) – specifically the scent of Dreft baby detergent – helped us cope during that heartbreaking time. Before I get more into details, I want to be completely transparent and say that while this post is in partnership with Dreft, everything I’m about to share is legitimately what happened – and Dreft just happened to play a part in it. One of the things my husband and I most remember about Emmett being separated from us in the hospital for countless MRIs, EEGs, blood tests, lumbar punctures, etc. was how the smell of his clothing and blankets – which were always washed in Dreft – brought us comfort. (In fact, after working on this campaign, we started using Dreft to wash the kids’ clothes again – specifically plant-based Dreft purtouch – because we remembered how powerful that scent was in terms of feeling comforted and bonded with Emmett. But more on that in a minute.)
After the neurologist sat us down to deliver the devastating results of Emmett’s EEG, we were instructed to go home and pack enough belongings to be in the hospital for a week. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and, as my husband describes it, going through the motions, almost as if we were watching ourselves on a movie. It was surreal. We frantically grabbed things and threw them in bags. I was mainly focused on Emmett, and packed his blankets, lovey pacifier, and other things I hoped would bring him comfort. Then we headed to the children’s hospital.
Within minutes of checking in and getting our room, a doctor and several nurses came in. We were asked countless questions and had to fill out pages of paperwork, and Emmett was sedated and whisked away for his MRI. That was one of the hardest parts of the entire experience. From the second the neurologist gave us the bad news in his office, I held Emmett. I even rode next to him in his car seat to the hospital. I was overcome with a biological urge to protect him, so having him taken from me (even for something that was in his best interest and meant to help him), was devastating. During his MRI (which took over an hour), a kind nurse encouraged us to go try to eat something. Sitting in the hospital cafeteria, force feeding myself crackers, I broke down in tears. Right in the middle of that crowded cafeteria, I ugly cried until I was gasping for air. I reached into my diaper bag for a tissue and instead grabbed one of Emmett’s muslin blankets. And as I raised it to my face, I smelled Emmett. Emmett’s clothes were always washed in Dreft, and the scent of that blanket instantly made me feel better, like he was close. I remember telling Robbie to smell it too. As silly as it sounds, that blanket brought me great comfort in that moment, and reminded me of the special bond I had with my babe, regardless of whether or not he was physically with me at that moment.
For the rest of our hospital stay, I made sure we had that blanket with us every time he was taken away. And while I mostly slept in the hospital chair holding and nursing him during the nights, when he napped in the crib and I napped on the hospital couch, I slept with it right next to me. I’m telling you guys, it was amazing how keeping that item close helped me (and my husband) feel bonded with and connected to Emmett during that time. While his comfort was obviously our number one priority, having those moments of comfort for ourselves as well genuinely helped us through one of the most difficult experiences of our lives. I’ve always known (from reading about it and from personal experience) that scent is incredibly powerful, but this was the ultimate proof. And here’s something crazy – the day we were released and took our sweet boy back home, he insisted on having the muslin blanket that I’d hijacked wrapped over him. He couldn’t talk, of course, but I imagined it was because he felt the same bond we did.
Now that I know more, when I think back to how powerful the scent of that blanket was, it all makes sense. In fact, a new survey discovered that Dreft‘s iconic scent actually helps parents feel more bonded and connected to their little ones. (Here are some stats… 8 out of 10 parents feel that using Dreft can make them feel more bonded with their baby. 94% of parents say that the scent of Dreft reminds them of baby. And when they are apart, 87% of parents agree that the Dreft scent helps them feel more connected and closer to their little one. We are proof of this!) We were always very careful with our kids as babies when it came to scents, and preferred unscented products – but because Dreft is hypoallergenic, it is so gentle on baby’s skin, and has such a sweet, subtle scent (one that has been specifically formulated to resemble the indescribable smell of babyhood), we purposefully chose it over unscented detergents. I actually got my first bottle of Dreft at my baby shower while pregnant with my first, and after it was recommended to me by so many friends and family (and I learned that it was the #1 dermatologist recommended detergent for baby clothes and the #1 pediatrician recommended baby detergent!), it was a no brainer to use it. The fact that Dreft has been created exclusively for babies to take care of their delicate clothes and fabrics for more than 80 years is pretty darn reassuring too. And I mean really – if a detergent can make us feel bonded, nostalgic, happy, tearful and grateful just by smelling a load of laundry, I am in.
As I mentioned earlier, since starting work on this campaign, we’ve been using Dreft again, specifically Dreft purtouch, which was introduced last year. It is a 65% plant-based baby detergent that is hypoallergenic and made with naturally-derived ingredients to be gentle on skin. It still has that special scent we love, and gently yet effectively cleanses (removing up to 99% of baby stains, which is mandatory with a toddler). It’s really nice to have it back around the house again, as we share new (and, thankfully, much less intense) bonding moments with our little ones.
To this day, both Emmett and I love that special blanket, by the way. I am constantly reminded (especially now that we wash it in Dreft again) of how it bonded us during the most challenging time. I’ll never throw it away.
Do you have any special scents that help you feel connected to your little ones? Who else is a Dreft fan?
What should a dog eat and how do you know if you’re giving your pet the best diet possible? There are so many different types of diets available for dogs today – dry food, canned food, raw meats, cooked meats, turkey, vegetables, and specialty blends.
The diet that you feed your dog will have an effect on its physical health, …
Dogs in cars. (Emmanuelle, Guillaume, Joe (the cocker spaniel) in Patrick’s restored Renault 4. What wonderful friends I have.
I am ethically opposed to BSL for all of the reasons outlined above, specially that it encourages discrimination of pit bulls by other powers.
However, this article is written in such a way that it’s not outright lies, but it is certainly designed to mislead. SFACC does not put people in a position as to force them to surrender their pet bc they can’t afford to spay or neuter. The way this is written is incredibly misleading and irresponsible. SFACC will not keep someone’s pet because they cannot afford to redeem them. They work out payment plans. They have the power to refuse to give someone a pet that they can’t pay for, this is true. But it simply isn’t done (unless there are extenuating circumstances that lead them to believe this is in the dog’s best interest).
Additionally, the legislation was put into place because the mayor at that time wanted to ban pit bulls outright. While this version of BSl certainly is not great, it’s vastly better than banning these precious babies altogether.
While I too am against BSL, and understand where Bad Rap is coming from, it’s pretty hard to be against spay neuter for a dog breed that is disproportionally homeless. Personally I wish that it was mandatory spay and neuter for all dogs.
Bad Rap, you’re better than this. You have the moral high ground-don’t squander it by being misleading and misinformed. Additionally, SFACC didn’t write the law. Maybe you should be more critical of the legistlators at city hall and less critical of the men and woman working hard every day to keep the animals of San Francisco safe and who support the pet guardians of San Francisco in countless ways.
BAD RAP Blog
I always look forward to opening up the mailbox. Sure, email is great – but there’s something magical and mysterious about having physical, tangible items delivered to you from somewhere beyond. The other day was no exception, as I happened to receive the latest issue of Dog Fancy magazine (November 2011). And in the “Natural Dog” section is a feature on Natural Dog Training, including interviews with me and Kevin Behan, along with a couple people who have had some very positive experiences with NDT. (Cliff Abrams and Sang Koh).
The article is entitled “Push Away Stress” – and I think it does a great job of zeroing in on one of the central principles in how we interact with our dogs – that the key to establishing a rock-solid connection with your dog is to recognize that life for your dog, especially in a human world, creates stress. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to give your dog ways to relax that tap into their innate mechanisms for releasing stress. By doing so, you are teaching your dog that no matter how the world makes them feel, you are uniquely capable of helping them get through it.
This might all sound a little mumbo-jumbo-y, but I’ve seen it now time and time again, how tapping into your dog’s primal circuitry changes things for the better. My DVD set (and this website, and Kevin’s books, and Lee Charles Kelley’s articles, and…) gives plenty of examples of how once you’re plugged in with your dog you can turn that relationship into enthusiastic “obedience.”
Note that the reason that I put the word “obedience” in quotes is because the concept becomes almost moot. Your dog doesn’t “obey” you – because there’s no need. What happens is that you learn how to communicate with your dog in a language that they understand. So your dog listens, and responds.
Not because they are suddenly blindly obeying you, or because you’ve become the “authority” in their lives – but because they care what you have to say. It makes sense to them. Even more, it FEELS good to act in harmony with your desires. Because now you both want the same thing.
If reading the Dog Fancy article is your introduction to Natural Dog Training, welcome! I’m sure you’re intrigued to know what “pushing” is all about – as the technique was essentially the focus of the article, without any detailed instruction on how to actually do it! As you might expect, I do explain thoroughly how to do it on my DVDs – but I also provide written instruction here on my website on How to Push with Your Dog (and the follow-up – Why to Push with Your Dog).
Thank you to Dog Fancy magazine (and writer Susan Chaney) for an open-minded article about what we do. And thanks, once again, to all of you. It’s your attention, questions, and feedback (yes, keep sending emails with your stories of your success!) that help remind me why I’m doing this in the first place.
It’s been said that every dog has his day. For Bulldogs that day is April 21st, when animal lovers celebrate Bulldogs are Beautiful Day! To mark the occasion, here are a few fun facts about one…
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