The Origin of Dogs                     author unknown

You might know that the German shepherd curled up at the foot of your bed — and even the English terrier yipping in the yard next door — descended from wolves. You might also know that dogs were the first domesticated animal.

But if you don’t know when or where that predator-to-pooch transformation happened, don’t fret. Neither do scientists.

Sure, they’ve published lots of studies suggesting they do. In the past four years, researchers have identified Siberia, Europe, Central Asia and southern East Asia as dog domestication’s ground zero. They’ve said it occurred at least 15,000 years ago, or possibly 18,800 years ago, or 33,000 years ago.

Note the conflicts? That’s the problem. To say this is a hotly debated topic in the dog-eat-dog world of canine science would be a huge understatement.

But a massive global study is making a bold attempt to settle things by bringing together nearly all major canine researchers to gather and analyze thousands of ancient DNA samples and canine skulls. The first findings of the project, run out of the University of Oxford in Britain, are expected to be rolled out this year.

The results should help determine the wheres and whens — plural, because dogs might have been domesticated in different places at different times — said Greger Larson, an American evolutionary biologist who is a leader of the effort. And from that, he said, scientists will be able to infer the answer to another controversial question: Did ancient humans tame wolves, or did wolves become our pals by following ancient humans and scavenging their scraps?

The reason for the confusion, Larson said in an interview, is that much of canine genetics research is based on modern dogs, which are the result of thousands of years of mixing and, more recently, rampant breeding by people.

“All of which means that the global population of dogs is essentially one large bowl of tomato soup,” he said. “If all you have is the soup to go on, how do you infer the initial process of making that soup?”

The answer, he said: “Look at the past and watch it happen.”

Those involved in the project are doing that by creating a database of more than 1,500 DNA samples from ancient canine fossils collected all over the world, most of them housed in museums and universities. They are also uploading thousands of photos of canine skulls to create computer-generated images of their morphology, or shape. That’s key because wolves’ faces changed — their snouts shortened, for example — as they evolved into dogs.

The result will offer something of a timeline and a map of that transformation, and patterns that emerge will lead to answers, Larson thinks.

“Like anything evolutionary, it’s a continuum,” he said. But the idea is to end up with a representation of the “time and space of dogs and wolves across the old and new world.”

The mystery of precisely how domestication happened is likely to continue sparking battles, he said. One theory is that ancient humans had a eureka moment when they decided to tame wolves, nabbed some puppies and went from there. Larson thinks that’s preposterous, partly because people hadn’t yet domesticated other animals or plants 15,000 years ago — by which time scientists generally agree dogs had come into being — and partly because wolves probably wouldn’t have made that easy.

“Our imaginations don’t really grasp onto this idea of a long, slow, accidental process. We like to think of ourselves as smart, and we’ve always been smart,” he said. What’s more, he said: “Even wolves that are hand-reared by people from birth … they’re completely unruly.”

Larson favors a theory that he said “absolves humans of forethought and intention” and puts it in the paws of the wolves. According to this idea, the canines followed hunter-gatherers around and scavenged their scraps, and over time the gentler ones got to stick around.

Even while the jury is still out, Larson is getting praise for having gathered the sometimes snarling forces of the competitive dog research world, some of whose bold claims might end up undermined.

“It’s not dog-specific. It’s just science … If there’s a lot of potential answers, then you’ll have people fighting in their corner for their answers,” he said. “I just want to know the answer.”

On its face, that answer would be about the beginnings of the dog at the end of your leash. But Larson said it is also key to nothing less than human civilization itself. Before they began domesticating other living things, people were mobile and maybe smarter than other creatures. But they were certainly not in charge, he noted.

“Everything about the way that humans now live and exist in the world,” he said. “It’s all because of domestication.”

2018 is The YEAR of the DOG

Lori takes her Aussie Amazie through some tricks during the demo portion of the show. Trick classes will be announced later in the month of April.

Laura explaining the basics of Agility.

Leslie Rush takes standard poodle Bailey through the course in record time. Bailey is a novice AKC competitor, sadly moving out of the area this month. We will miss them both!

Hayley takes her top dog Trigger through the course. Hayley is a border collie breeder and very active on the NADAC circuit.

Hayley has her hands full with two extremely athletic borders, Trigger on her left, and Jade on her right.

Deadly Dog Flu Hits Napa
by Laura Dayton

It’s been a bad year for the human flu, but an even worse year for the dog flu.

A version of the dog flu flared up in 2015 and was largely isolated in the Midwest and Eastern states, Now, in 2018, the flu has spread across the continental US and has reared its ugly head right here in Napa.

“There have been four cases of dog flu here in Napa that I know of,” said Mary Whitehill, DVM, practice owner at Napa Small Animal Hospital, “Three from our hospital, and one from somewhere else. Our dogs were treated at the Animal Care Center in Rohnert Park.”

The dog flu requires hospitalization, where it can be treated 24/7.  Since this is a costly option not available to some pet owners, the flu’s death-rate is quite high, with an 80% death rate according to That’s not good. Dogs cannot catch the human flu and likewise, people can’t catch the dog flu.

Canine flu is a respiratory virus spread by coughing, sneezing and barking, and our receptive dogs’ noses are trained to capture scents, which unfortunately also capture these viruses. The most at-risk dogs are in kennels, shelters and popular dog spots—parks, dog training centers and dog shows. If your dog is going to be exposed to these locations it is strongly recommended you get a flu vaccine.

“We have given out several hundred vaccines to dogs who congregate with other dogs at day care, boarding kennels and dog parks,” said Dr. Whitehill. “The vaccine is a bivalent vaccine for two types of canine influenza. It is given subcutaneously with a booster in 2 to 3 weeks, and then yearly. We have not witnessed any severe reactions. Several dogs have been a little tender at the injection site and lethargic.”

The virus can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours and on hands for 12 hours. Two viruses have been identified, with incubation periods of one to eight days. If your dog is exposed to other dogs, the cost to ensure that your dog will not contract this deadly flu is well worth the cost of the vaccine.

Over The Rainbow

Team Astro at Elk Grove

Team Astro is on the map! Here is our core team (l-r) Lisa, Dr. Chris, Lori, Amaizey, Superstar Kennedy, Brix, Laura Dayton, Dave Anderson and puppy Nitro. With two trials under our belt Amaizey has 10 pts. and Kennedy has 40 pts. Kennedy will advance to a special Extraordinaire class and Amaizy and Brix will continue to collect points. Puppy Nitro took first in show at an AKC conformation meet. Go Team!!!

Pix from our recent April 7, open House

Theresa Clyde gets a smooch from Apollo.

This was one of the last photos of my special Bearded Collie Astro, for whom all this is dedicated to. He crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 2014 at age 17. He had advanced arthritis due to a career of herding and jumping, which is why I insist on keeping jumps low for practice. I'm sure he's proud of all of you for keeping his name alive in the world of agility!.

How Smart Is Your Dog?

 by Laura Dayton

 It doesn’t matter what breed you own, the answer is simple: Smarter than you think!

 Sure, a dog’s brain is only a tenth the size of our own and they have the intelligence of about a 2-year-old, yet certain areas in your dog’s brain far outshine those of Einstein and most living creatures. Their nose can locate a cadaver thirty feet deep in the water, from a boat. They can detect cancer, drugs, bombs and find people all with a sniff of their notable nostrils. Their sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more than humans with 50 times more receptors in their noses and 40 percent more brain space dedicated to analyzing these smells than the human brain has.

 Studies have shown they have a natural sense of true north, can easily learn left from right, can predict a hurricane and earthquake before it strikes, and foresee a seizure or insulin drop in humans. In one German study a dog was found to have a vocabulary of more than 200 words and amazingly, did pretty good at guessing what new words meant. This process is called “fast mapping,” a trait once thought only humans possesse.

 Can your dog read your mind? No, but he reads your body language like a book. He knows your every move before a car ride or a walk. He even knows when you’re planning to leave without him. Dogs are also highly empathetic. Ever enjoy a big yawn and see your dog do the same? And while you know your dog is your best friend and sympathizer when you’re sad, he’ll show the same empathy for strangers too.

 Granted, dogs believe the world is flat. What they can’t see doesn’t exist and they have little imagination. The next time your dog seems to second-guess you, don’t chalk it up to coincidence. He’s getting more olfactory and instinctual data than you or I could ever wrap our large brains around.