Category: Dog Related Articles

The reality of owning a “Guard Dog”

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write a blog post. I guess it’s because I’m a little burnt out on all the topics I’d typically write about: tech stuff, programming stuff, photography, and dogs.

With that said, I still get asked a lot about these topics, especially dog related topics. One topic I get asked about frequently is guard dogs and guardian breeds. So, I thought I’d take a few minutes and put my thoughts on owning guard dogs down in a blog post in case others might find this info helpful.

First, let’s summarize what exactly “Guard Dog” means. A guard dog is a dog that guards your property, possessions, and/or livestock. He/she, at the very least, should be expected to scare off a potential threat or “bad guy”. Guard dogs differ from “Watch Dogs” and “Personal Protection Dogs” in many ways, and if you’d like to read more on this subject check out my post “Guard Dog vs. Watchdog”.

Before I dive into what I’m about to write, I want to make it clear that these are my opinions. I’m not an expert on anything. What I am is a guy with an above average understanding of canine behavior & training who’s owned and worked with many different types of dogs – most of which have been those in the “Guardian Breed” and “Hunting Breed” categories.


The harsh reality of owning a Guard Dog
When deciding to get a Guard Dog I feel it’s important to answer these questions first before you select a breed or a breeder:

  1. Do you want this dog to be social with guests at your home?
  2. Do you expect this dog to engage (bite) an intruder? And by “bite” I mean a real damaging bite, not a nip or fear bite – one that sends the person to the hospital with potentially life threatening injuries. Most dogs will fearbite if pushed; few will actually give a real bite.
  3. Are you really willing to accept the liability associated with owning a dog who might bite an intruder (like the fact it will likely mean the dog will be PTS once he/she performs his/her role IRL)?

If you answered yes to 1 and 2, then, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but you’re shit out of luck. There is simply no such thing as a dog who is 100% safe around guests who can also be trusted 100% to bite an intruder. That’s the simple reality of a guard dog. A dog who will bite a potential threat will need to be put away when you have company over. Takes the romance out of it a bit, huh?


Maybe reconsider your options?
Before you get upset and stop reading my thoughts here, maybe stop and consider the fact you may actually be interested in a watch dog and not a guard dog? Let me give you some statistics that might help you reconsider getting a dog that will bite an intruder.

From Key domestic burglary crime statistics (at January 2007) by Andrew Kent…

Based on findings from a small sample of burglars in a study in Kirkholt (Forrester et al., 1988xviii; n=76), over half of the offenders felt deterred by occupancy, visible burglary alarms or high visibility at the point of entry. Findings from a small group of active burglars (Cromwell et al., 1991xix; n=30) indicated that for a sample of 30 active offenders, 90 percent stated that they avoided selecting houses that appeared to be occupied and 70 percent were deterred by the presence of a dog.



A. Ask the experts about home security. Jack MacLean (Secrets of a Superthief) reports the results of a survey of over 300 prison inmates who’d been convicted of burglary or other residential crimes. Three of the questions were about dogs and home security:

Would dogs scare you away?
65% said that dogs of good size and unfriendly persuasion would scare them away
35% said no dog would scare them away.

Based on reassessment of responses, MacLean concludes that over 95% would indeed be scared away.[5]


From Burglary of Single-Family Houses

Houses without dogs. A dog’s presence is a close substitute for human occupancy, and most burglars avoid houses with dogs. Small dogs may bark and attract attention, and large dogs may pose a physical threat, as well.31 On average, burglarized houses are less likely to have dogs than are non-burglarized houses, suggesting that dog ownership is a substantial deterrent.32 (Security alarms, discussed below, are also a substitute for occupancy.)


Based on my research, it seems that 90% of criminal activity directed at your home and occupants would be eliminated by having ANY dog. But the effectiveness of the dog increases based on color and size of the dog. A large black dog, of any breed, is considered a better deterrent than, say, a small white dog.

With that, perhaps an English Mastiff, Leonberger, Tosa Inu, or Newfoundland would suit the needs of someone who answered “yes” to questions 1 & 2 but “no” to question 3 above.


Don’t buy into the hype
Most of the guardian dog breed descriptions are filled with hype and historical bias written by breed purists and enthusiasts hoping to “sell” the breed. This is really no more than mental masturbation. I think it’s important to connect with honest and down-to-earth owners of the various breeds to get a real understanding of owning a breed before you base your decision on what info you can gleam from the interwebs and breed purists. Even better – go meet a few breed representatives yourself.

I’ve come to realize that most breeders have a biased view of the breed. The breed for them is what they want the breed to be, or what they produce in the breed. This is why it’s important to find a breeder who shares your views on the breed you’re interested in. If a breeder gives you any reason to doubt that their views are in line with yours, then I’d pass on that breeder – or breed.


Don’t set a dog up for failure!
In the guardian dog world – especially the large molosser-types – it’s become a trend to try and “sell” the breeds as “all purpose” guardian dogs. Many go as far as to test their dogs in activities that are alien to the original function of the breed. For example: testing a Livestock Guard Dog (LGD) in Personal Protection Work (like biting a sleeve) or herding work. These breeds were not “designed” to take the human-pressure associated with PPD work or to have the energy and drive to do herding work. In this situation, the dog (breed) is being set up to fail, and that’s a shame. I’d stay away from any breeder who tries to sell their dogs for work in something they were not originally meant to do.

I would avoid breeders who claim their breed will excel in work it wasn’t meant to do – unless they have solid proof. A great example of this can be found in the Ovcharka breeds, where they’re regularly tested in a man work scenario. Sure Ovcharka are human aggressive dogs, but they are not dogs selected to have the temperament needed to take real human physical pressure, and therefore shouldn’t be worked (or expected to work) in a man work type of scenario. Put them behind a fence and let them give a big scary display – this is something they excel at like no other breed. Set these dogs up for success and to display their best qualities!


So you want a “maneater”?
Now let’s say you answered “no” to question 1 (being friendly with guests), and “yes” to question 2 (biting an intruder). Assuming you’ve done the research to understand the liability associated with owning a dog who WILL bite an intruder and are ok with it, you’ll also need a safe and secure place to put your Guard Dog. You’ll need to be diligent in how you manage a dog like this – always thinking ahead of potential situations that might trigger them to act aggressively so you can set them up for success.

It’s also important to understand that a true guard dog – a dog who will engage an intruder – will likely not be a dog you want to treat as a “normal pet”. This is a dog who will have certain natural instincts and fixed behavior patterns (FAPs) that could trigger their aggression in situations where it’s not appropriate – especially with young dogs. So you will need to use your judgment when doing things like playing rough and introducing the dog to high stimuli environments and situations.

A dog expected to perform a function like this needs to come from a breeder who tests and selects for a stable working dog – focused on this specific type of work. Many breeders will go to extremes to convince you that their dogs will perform well in this role, but if they’re not testing their dogs to engage human threats then you cannot trust them to produce a dog that will work for your needs/wants. And, unfortunately, most breeders do not test their dogs in a way that will give you any hope of a guarantee the dog will perform the role you’re interested in him/her performing.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Protection Sports is NOT the same as Personal Protection work or guarding work. Protection sports is built around training the dog to bite under very specific and obvious conditions. A dog trained like this knows it’ll be biting a thing (usually a sleeve or bite suit) the second it’s taken out into that specific environment or under those obvious conditions. This is useless for someone looking for a PPD or Guard Dog. Be wary of breeders who work their dogs in Protection Sports (ringsports and Schutzhund) and claim they will protect – one does not equal the other – a dog trained in protection sports, or a pup from dogs tested in protection sports, will give you NO guarantee that the dog will actually protect in a real world scenario.

I write this info from personal experience, having purchased dogs from breeders who “worked” their dogs (in protection sports) only to end up with a dog who’s a great sporting dog, but not a guard or protection dog. There are very few breeders left in the world working and selecting their dogs in roles that are suitable for a guard dog. If you think you’ve found a breeder who produces dogs who will suit your need, be sure to get a second opinion as it’s very easy to be caught up in the idea of getting a new pup – hell, feel free to contact and ask me my opinion. At the very least you’ll be pointed to someone who knows a thing or two about real aggression and not just simply a person doing sport work with their “protection dogs” or trying to sell you a false promise.

Posted in Behavior, Breeding, Dog Links, Dog Related Articles, Dogs, History


By William J. Carpenter

Written in memory of Casey-JoI (Border Collie circa 1988 – August 25th, 2003)

August 25th, 2003 was a tragic day at Moraine Point, NWT (61° 36.2′ N & 115° 38.00′ W) on the west shore of Great Slave Lake where my ex-wife and I resided at the time. During her 6th attempt to chase black bears off our property since August 20th, and although assisted by 4 of our Canadian Eskimo DogsII, Casey was killed by a bear. I was also attacked and bitten on the right upper arm by the same bear, with my life likely saved by the aggressive and fierce reaction of my dogs that immediately attacked the bear while he was upon me, thus giving me a chance to escape. Before I go into the details let me provide a little background.

I have been involved with Moraine Point and area for nearly 23 years as it is the location of my lodge and I have always fully recognized that it was in the heart of black bear country. The near by Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation (FFMC) fish packing plant that had operated every summer was a prime attraction for bears. Not only was it a constant source of fish scent as an attraction for bears, but it was in the past a summer food source for my dogs. Also on a regular basis culled (unmarketable) fish were taken from the FFMC plant to the far side of Moraine Bay and dumped just offshore. The food source had fed many of the resident bears for several generations and even several wolves for all the 23 summers that I have spent at Moraine Point Lodge located only 2 km from the plant. I have always taken the approach that as we are in their territory we need to keep a tidy clean camp so that we do not attract the bears. However if we did see a bear, I have focused on deterring the bears or chasing the bears off by way of all acceptable means including bear banger guns, various noise makers, throwing rocks and the use of dogs that have been at our lodge. I have never viewed the bears as a serious problem at Moraine Point although our former business partners John and Cristine Bayly may disagree as a bear during one summer back in the early 1980’s did swipe or bite at Cristine while she was in a tent.

Over the many summers that I had spent at Moraine Point the bears were more of a problem to the FFMC and fishermen or perhaps their level of tolerance for the bears had been lower than mine. I personally did not agreed with the solutions at the fish plant as often the fishermen or the FFMC plant employees seem to have focused entirely on killing all bears. In fact one summer approximately 12 bears were shot including 2 cubs that were left hanging in the trees after they were killed. Over the years I have personally deterred numerous bears from remaining in the proximity of our lodge and until last year I never had to destroy a problem bear. Casey and at least one Eskimo Dog were always with us in recent years and in 1996 Casey was fitted with a set of bells she wore around her neck so we would know her whereabouts. To the amusement of many, she even wore them in Yellowknife. On September 1st, 2002 my wife (at the time) and I moved permanently to Moraine Point and shortly after our arrival we did encounter one bear that persisted in try to acquire food from our dogs and in spite of numerous attempts over several days at chasing him off, he finally crossed the magic line and attacked and slightly injured a tied up dog. It this point I took corrective measures and killed the bear and reported the kill to the Hay River office of Resources Wildlife and Economic Development (RWED). Upon examination the dead bear was found to be middle aged; but had a recent bullet wound to the abdomen resulting in a herniated and infected area under the skin. It was likely the same bear that was shot at the FFMC plant some weeks earlier with a 30-30 caliber rifle.

In general I have personally taken the approach that it was still quite fine to occasionally see bears or any other wildlife for that matter provided that they were not of danger to me or any of my guests or friends. After all we have been pleased to see moose, caribou, bison, wolverine, wolves, foxes, martin so why not bears.

The summer, 2003 was different, as for a start the FFMC plant due to economic reasons did not open. Yet amazingly we saw no bears until August 20th. We had expected to see bears much earlier but concluded perhaps falsely that they were successful in acquiring food on their own after the closure of the fish plant.

Bear 1-2003 as I numbered our first sighting, showed up on the shoreline in front of the lodge early in the morning of August 20th and it was headed for the dogs that were tied on the beach. None of the dogs were loose and Casey was in the house. The bear was approaching the dogs just as I opened the front door to yell at him. Before I yelled he had reacted to the noisy dogs, which by then were causing quite a fuss and he turned to go back in the direction he came from. I ran down and released 4 of the dogs that were buddies to Casey and called her to have them all chase after the bear as has been our routine to deter any intruding bear. True to form, the task was undertaken with the same eagerness and excitement and led by Casey off they went in full pursuitIII of the bear.

Bear sighting 2-2003 occurred on the morning of August 21st just prior to our planned departure to Yellowknife. This bear (whether it was the same bear as 1-2003 I do not know) was at our compost barrels but also chased off by Casey and her 4 Eskimo Dog companions. While away for 2 days the dogs (a total of 14 Eskimo Dogs and Casey) were all tied along the beach on a chain that had movement on end cables to allow each dog to have access to the lake water). Casey was happily and safely located between Kurugrook and Whiskers two of her favorite dogs.

Bear sighting 3-2003 occurred upon our return to Moraine Point late on Saturday afternoon August 23rd but it was over at the old FFMC plant where the pilot had to land the airplane due to rough water in front of our home. This bear appeared as a tall, long legged thin bear that was up on the wooden dock pacing back and forth as if wanting to reach out to us as he stretched his neck out over the water. The pilot taxied the plane back and forth waiting for the bear to leave, then after several minutes the bear then went down to our docking site on the shore and came out into the water a couple of feetIV The pilot shut off the engine and we shouted loudly at the bear and banged the side of the aircraft to make additional noise. In short order the bear moved off allowing us to dock the plane. He was last seen going into the bush right on the trail that led to our place. After unloading we left our gear and supplies in a building at the plant and noisily walked home being sure to watch for the bear. Although we did not see any bears, we saw 7 piles of bear droppings on the 2 km trail home. Upon arrival at the house we saw very fresh bear droppings right adjacent to the house and the garbage burning barrel was knocked over with all the burned cans spread out.

Without incident we returned to the fish plant with our Honda Trike and wagon for our supplies taking with us Casey and the 4 dogs plus we carried a bear banger. These 5 dogs remained loose around our house after we returned.

That evening just after supper, we heard the other dogs on the beach raising a fuss and noted a bear on the shore just beyond the furthest tied dogs. This being bear sighting 4-2003 was dealt with in the same usual manner in that I carried a bear banger, took Casey and the 4 loose dogs down and within moments they too saw the bear and gave chase sending the bear into the bush and uphill away from the lodge.

The next day Sunday August 24th, bear sighting 5-2003 occurred just outside of the small cabin about 100 ft from the main lodge. With out any need for assistance or encouragement the dogs, being Casey, Kurugrook, Spirit, Whiskers and Edéhzhíe again chased off the bear with no further sightings that day.

All the dogs except Casey spend the night loose outside. In the morning August 25th at approximately 8 AM Casey was eager to go out and I let her out but noticed that the other dogs were not present. I observed that Casey roamed around the yard with her hackles up and was keenly interested in something. Shortly after I saw that the others dogs were all returning very excited having just come in from the forest. Casey immediately joined her companions and within minutes they ran off with Casey at the lead and we heard her loud barkingV off in the forest as she does when she encounters an animal of any kind.

I was about to put on boots to follow them when something very noticeable occurred. Casey’s barking ended and suddenly from off in the forest I heard the long drawn out stress call of the 4 Eskimo Dogs all giving off their low deep pitched “woof – woof – woof”. A few minutes later just as I got outside all 4 Eskimo Dogs eagerly greeted me but no Casey, which at first appeared normal as she is often first after a bear and last to return. However after a few minutes and with no Casey in sight and with no distant barking or sounds of her bells at all, I thought perhaps something was wrong. I also saw that Kurugrook has a sizeable bleeding gash across his forehead just above his eyes. I did not know exactly quite what direction or route to take to look for her but as I entered the lower land behind one of the old buildings it was clear that the dogs wanted to go in one particular direction and not any other. I kept saying lets find Casey. Foolishly, as hindsight now tells me, I was on my way without a rifle but was carrying only the bear banger with 6 shots and one projectile unit that serves as an option to send off a unit that explodes at a distance with a very loud bang.

Unusual about this trip with the dogs was also that Spirit (who is subordinate to his father Kurugrook) was eagerly leading the way (something Kurugrook never allowed him to do) and he was most definite about his route which was with a pronounced right turn off the main path going up Cranberry Hill as we call the trail I was on. The other dogs followed him as I did and he then stopped and waited not just for them, but as soon as I was near he turned this time to the right and went uphill striking off on a new but definite route and stopped and waited again. By this time the dogs were all with hackles up and acting very alert stopping and smelling ahead and looking up the hill. Spirit led us on a bit further through a small clearing and then into denser forest and suddenly there it was bear sighting 6-2003. Some 45 feet ahead of me in the forest and far too close was a black bear. The dogs were immediately giving their stress “woof – woof- woof” and were running at the bear that was standing over dear Casey who was obviously dead and being eaten.

Hind sight again is wonderful and I now know that I should have quickly retreated and gone home for my rifle, but I did not. Instead, almost in anger at seeing the bear eating my daughter’s dog, I raised the bear banger, inserted the one projectile unit and fired the gun wanting to scare off the bear from Casey. I saw the projectile land in front of the bear exactly where I aimed but to my amazement and shock the projectile was a dud and went off with a low “poof” and a bit of smoke instead of the extremely loud bang or boom that was suppose to occur. Within a split second the bear charged me running full speed the 45 feet and it was not a bluff. With full knowledge from all I have readVI and heard that we are not suppose to run from a bear attack, I don’t think I would have had time to run far (prosthetic knee and all) even if I wanted to, for in less than a heartbeat the bear was at me, up on his hind legs and had his jaws clenched onto my right upper arm at the triceps area. This was not a bluff but certainly was a provoked bear protecting a food cache. I knew I was in big trouble and with the bear’s head within a foot of mine as he held onto my arm I think I quickly punched him in the nose with my left fist (left handed punches were always my best defense since a kid), and I yelled at him as loud as I could. Or maybe I yelled first and then punched, but in either case the entire scene caused a reaction from the dogs too, and the next thing I realized was that 2 of the four dogs were fiercely attacking the bear from below and suddenly I was free. With the dogs now between me and the bear I immediately looked for a retreat route and I recall the odd decision I was making and that was to select a route with thick bush and trees for protection in case he attacked again, or to go for the easiest but unprotected route. With the bear having moved back over Casey again, I quickly retreated by the easier route. I called the dogs and headed back home realizing I had a sore upper arm from the bear bite. In a few minutes I was at the house and met by my ex-wife who was very concerned as she heard the story of Casey’s death and my brush with the bear.

I checked my arm and saw that it was not a serious wound. The top of the triceps had two upper canine teeth marks and on the underside there was a single but deeper abrasion from a lower canine tooth. We applied a topical antibiotic ointment to the area. The oddity was that there was only one lower canine mark and having dealt with carnivore bites at my veterinary clinic over the years I was expecting to see 4 canine tooth marks. We next proceeded with plans to return to the site with our guns to kill the bear. I first phoned the RWED office in Hay River and reported the incident to Al Helmer the Resource Management Officer and advised that I was going to shoot the bear.

My ex-wife had our 20 gauge shotgun loaded with 3 shells that were the lead slugs instead of birdshot and I was with the 300 Winchester Magnum rifle and we headed back to the area accompanied by the 4 Eskimo Dogs. The plan was to each be in position to see the bear when we approached the area and to have one of us take the easiest shot while the other acted as a backup. As we carefully worked our way back, following the retreat route that I had earlier used, we carefully noted where we were in proximity to the kill site and the dogs grew more excited as we approached. However as they were well in front of us I knew we would have some warning, but it may call for quick action if the bear came out to meet us.

As expected the bear was found at the site and in fact briefly rushed out a few feet to challenge one of the dogs. All 4 dogs had actually formed a bit of a semi circle around the bear but as all were between us and the bear it was a matter of taking careful aim at the bear without risking a dog as all were constantly moving but occasionally stopping. The moment came and I aimed at the shoulder area and fired my rifle. The bear was hit, ran about 10 feet and fell whereupon I shot it again. The dogs immediately let out their woofing sound and each ran in and out from the downed bear. We discovered that the bear had already buried Casey with moss and other vegetation. The dogs came over to sniff her showing great interest with Kurugrook even pawing at her foot as he often did to get her to react to his playing. Whiskers showed the most reaction and repeatedly came and smelled Casey and then would go to directly back to the bear letting out a long and unusual scolding type noise as a cross between her distress “woof’ and an angry short “howl”. She repeated this behavior often with her brother Edéhzhíe joining in too. We briefly looked around the area and left to get the Honda Trike and wagon to take back Casey’s remains.

When back at the house I phoned to the RWED Hay River number and was immediately asked by the woman on the phone if we got the bear. I replied yes and she expressed her concern that we had so much trouble and had lost a dog during the incident. After taking a short break we made plans to retrieve Casey and again returned to the site with the dogs and carrying our firearms. Upon arrival at the site, Whiskers was very vocal again, so I took the bells of Casey’s neck and called over Whiskers as the dog that perhaps would be as courageous and eager to deter bears as Casey had been and put the collar with bells on her neck.

We arrived back with Casey’s remains and decided to bury her in front of the house at an area that she often lay in the sun. It was a sad afternoon and although I am not a person who personifies my dogs, and while I do treat them as “work” animals, there did seem to be some sort of awareness by the 4 Eskimo Dogs that something was not right. We dug a grave in the glacial till that made up the under burden beneath a thin layer of black humus. As if to watch and supervise the digging event Casey’s head hung slightly out of the box, and the other dogs simply lay about on the grass as we completed the task. Before closing the grave, I clipped a snip of hair from the 4 dogs and from their heads and I placed all of it with Casey. What occurred for the rest of the day was a great deal of mourning and a re-examination of the entire event. The dogs seldom left the grave area and as we went into evening, over 5 hours later, Spirit (the dog, which in such a pronounced manner led me back to where the bear had killed Casey) was the only dog remaining. He was still sleeping next to the area when morning came, and was ignoring the other dogs.

August 26th, 2003, the day went well and we partially returned to doing normal work. After supper I decided to pump water and with two dogs. Whiskers and Edéhzhíe accompanying me I went to the pump located at the shore of the lake in front of the house. When I saw that the tank was full, I shut off the pump and returned to the house. Five minutes late I was looking out the parlor window having a coffee when suddenly I heard the bells of Whiskers and saw her and Edéhzhíe running down to the lake shore by the water pump all excited. It was bear sighting 7-2003, and I knew that there was more than one bear in the vicinity of my camp. The bear was heading towards the beach where the other dogs were tied up. I ran and got my rifle and as I fired a quick shot over the bear the 2 dogs quickly moved in close to the bear and turned it back in the direction it had come from. As it was retreating and being chased by the dogs I fired another warning shot which proved to be a real stimulus for the dogs and they chased him even harder for a few more dozen yards. With the dogs and carrying the gun I made my way down the shoreline for a very short distance to see if the bear was still around. However as it was near dark I did not linger long and returned back to the house, with the two dogs very excited and worked up over the chase.

August 28th, 2003, after a full day of no bears I decided to retrieve the bear carcass out of the bush as it was near our trail and likely would attract other hungry bears or predators. With the Edéhzhíe, Whiskers and Spirit as the dogs, I took the Honda Trike and wagon plus chains and cables to haul the bear out of the dense forest. I carried a gun for protection. Without incident I hauled the bear out and placed it out in the open at the end of the gravel point just opposite our house and visible across our own cove. The bear served as fall dining for the insects, ravens, gulls and later eagles. Throughout the coming winter it may feed the occasional weasel, wolverine or wolf and by spring it will have played its role in fertilizing the shore or nearby water.

From August 20th to August 26th, 2003 there were 7 bear sightings at Moraine Point which proved to be more than one bear. Using dogs as the main focus of a bear deterrent program did cost the life of one dog. She was “Casey” a very active 14 year old Border Collie who with several of our Canadian Eskimo dogs was always there to lead the chase and attack any intruding black bear. The same bear (# 6- 2003) also bit me on the right upper arm and I attribute the lack of no additional injuries to the fierce response of some of my dogs who attacked the bear while it was biting me.

With the closure of the Moraine Bay FFMC plant in the summer of 2003, there was a potential black bear problem as several generations of bears have grown up, effectively being well fed bears from the regular disposal of culled fish that were dumped on or near the shoreline on the opposite side of the bay from the plant. These bears may not have learned to be active hunters or predators and with this food source ending, they may pose a danger for the next few years until they disperse or are eliminated by natural or other means. In spite of the loss of one of my dogs, I still conclude that having several loose Inuit dogs around the yard is likely the most workable bear deterrent program for our location.

Happy hunting in doggy heaven Casey, Lara and I will miss you.

I Casey-Jo was originally my daughter’s dog but as with many parents I inherited the family dog for my keeping when Lara headed off to university in 1990. She was known to many who visited my Bowspringer Kennels & Veterinary Clinic in Yellowknife as the yard dog who greeted all in a friendly manner. Casey was also well known for her natural herding instincts as she would help round up any Eskimo Dog puppies that I let loose in our Yellowknife yard and it was during one of those times in 1999 that she first met a little pup who was strong and bold. My Inuit friends who saw him told me to name him Kurugrook which means “strong little man”

II The oldest of these 4 dogs was Kurugrook born in 1999 in Yellowknife but much of his life has been at Moraine Point. His son “Spirit” was born in Yellowknife in 2002 but raised since the age of 3 months at Moraine Point. The other 2 dogs were sister and brother “Whiskers” and “Edéhzhíe” born on the first day of fall 2002 at Moraine Point.

III The eager pursuit was all part of a game that Casey played as the old matriarch dog who had directed the behavior of all our recently raised 7 dogs over the last few summers. Her game was to chase squirrels with the assistance of the then puppies that as they grew older continued to have a subordinate yet protective behavior to this dear old girl and were eager to give chase in support of her interests. This often was with any small mammal such as foxes and squirrels but occasionally with Boreal Bison who ventured into our side of the point and the same behavior occurred fortunately with black bears. It all served as good warning to us that some animal was in the vicinity and we therefore were alerted. In the spring of 2001 Casey and Kurugrook chased off one spring bear freshly out of hibernation 3 or 4 times before it learned to stay away.

IV This was fairly typical behavior for Moraine Bay bears who often ventured out into the water on the far side of the bay to meet the boat dumping culled fish.

V The Eskimo Dogs do not bark as do other domestic breeds of dogs, but rather are very vocal with a high pitched whine or howl,. When under extreme stress, or danger however they do sound a pronounced alarm in the way of a slow drawn out “woof – woof – woof” all in a low deep pitch.

VI It was only the night before that I was reading out the bear section in “Survival Secrets” (Brian Emdin, 2002, Spotted Cow Press Ltd), which said “In bear country you are more likely to be struck by lightning than attached by a bear.”

Posted in Behavior, Dog Related Articles, Dogs, History, Hunting, Training Tagged with: , ,

On the problem of the origin of the domesticated dog and the incipient (aboriginal) formation of breeds – PADS Journals #36

“On the problem of the origin of the domesticated dog and the incipient (aboriginal) formation of breeds”
By Alexander Vlasenko (Moscow, Russia)
Translation By Vladimir Beregovoy [ ]


In search for an answer to the question about the ancestors of the domesticated dog and where and when it originated, it is not enough to use an approach from the standpoint of one branch of biological science, such as genetics, morphology, comparative anatomy or ethology. Controversial results of genetic investigations and paleontological findings require the use of a complex analysis of obtained data.

Manwell and Baker (1983) wrote that the investigation of the origin of the dog is hampered by “disciplinary dogmatism” and that the origin of the dog out of the wolf is still a hypothesis. Coler-Matznick (2002) thinks that dogs originated from small Pleistocene wolf similar to the Dingo. Not sharing completely the traditional or the innovative point of view, I will try to explain and substantiate my position. To start with, I will discuss aspects of the biology of the wolf (Canis lupus) as a primary candidate to be an ancestor of the domesticated dog, which is supported by phenotypical (including behavior) similarities, the results of investigations of DNA and the fact that easy interbreeding between dog and wolf results in fertile offspring.

The contemporary species of wolf is subdivided into 25 subspecies, one of which, the Indian wolf, is separated by some researchers as a different species, based on DNA studies. All subspecies of wolf are capable of breeding with dogs and, moreover, different data indicated that from 5% to 40% of wolves of European populations actually are wolf/dog hybrids. There are breeds of dogs obtained by deliberate interbreeding with wolves: Czech Vlach, Saarloss Wolf-dog, Italian Lupo and currently developing in Russia the Volkosob. Certain wolf subspecies of North America have certainly resulted from interbreeding with dogs. Besides, based on DNA analysis, it is well known that the American Red Wolf (Canis rufus) is a result of the natural interbreeding of gray wolf with coyote, which took place during the last 12,500 years (most likely during the last 2,500 years). In captivity, jackal/wolf, jackal/dog and even coyote/jackal hybrids were obtained, although the natural ranges of jackal and coyote do not overlap. Thus, the fertility of mixed offspring alone cannot be considered as evidence of the origin of dog from wolf.

Furthermore, we should take into account that the contemporary gray wolf evolved under powerful anthropogenic pressure. The wolf became a permanent foe of humans and was subject to extermination since the emergence of livestock. This pressure influenced the wolf’s behavior. We know from publications by I. A. Arshavsky (1982) and G. Kh. Shaposhnikov (1966) that the environment with intensive functional stress results in changes of both phenotype and genotype. In other words, environmental stress is a driving force of evolution. Another side of the environmental pressure is the systematic extermination not only of the most bold and trusting wolves in the population, but also whole subspecies and, possibly, species. Besides, a considerable decline of wolf populations often results in the appearance of feral wolf/dog mixes, which become absorbed by the rebounding wolf population. Therefore, it is highly probable that the contemporary wolf is different in many qualities from that wolf, which existed at the time of the origin of the domesticated dog and the results of DNA analysis of their affinity should be treated with caution.

During recent years, international group of researchers led by P. Savolainen has shown that all dogs originated during a short time period between 5,400 and 16,300 years ago in the southern part of eastern Asia (south of the Yangtze River) out of small group of a few hundreds of individuals of small Chinese wolves. Based on archeological data this time range is between 11,500 and 16, 300 years. The idea of the east Asian origin of the dog out of an extinct Asian subspecies of wolf, Canis lupus variabilis Pei, 1934, is shared by other researchers (Olsen and Olsen, 1977) based on studies of morphology of skulls of wolves and dogs of different populations. However, Tsuda and co-authors (1997) came to conclusion that the dog was domesticated multiple times in different geographic regions.

This point of view is corroborated by the fact that mt- DNA extracted out of skeletal remains of pre-Columbian dogs revealed sequences not detected in samples taken from more then 350 contemporary dogs (Leonard et al. 2002).

Parker et al. (2004) distinguished four groups of dog breeds with definitely different fragments of mt-DNA. They described the process of the evolution of dogs of east Asian origin like the sequential divergence from a primordial wolflike ancestor, first, the Australian Dingo, then the Basenji and, finally, Laika-like northern dogs. They consider Asian sighthounds the last group diverged from the dog’s ancestral species.

Lindblad-Toh with co-authors (2005) determines the age of the domesticated dog within range of 15,000 to 100, 000 years and proposed multiple domestications. Finally, the group of researchers of R. Wain (2010) published their results suggesting that the haplotypes of dogs are the closest to haplotypes of the Middle Eastern wolf and that wolves of the Middle East were the source of the genetic diversity of the domesticated dog. How can we understand these controversial results, if it is well known that the radiocarbon method determined the age of the oldest fossil skulls of domesticated dogs as 26,000 years (Cauvet Cave, France), 33,000 years (Razboinichya Cave, Altay) and Predmosti (Czech Republic) and even 36,000 years (Goye Cave, Belgium)?

There is no clear answer to this question so far. One possible and most likely cause of the discrepancy in the data is the extinction of several ancient populations of dogs caused by epidemics, such as distemper. In the past century, in the vast territories of the Russian north and in the Far East distemper almost wiped out nearly all dogs. If dogs originated in southern Asia and then they were first to pass selection for resistance to a virus caused disease, then these dogs migrated to other countries, where their chances of survival would be considerably higher than those of local dogs. It is also possible that the mechanism of “the molecular clock” works not quite as well as modern geneticists believe and the process of domestication and evolution of the dog in different regions of the Earth might be accompanied by a parallel channeled process of recombination of DNA, and likewise the recombination of DNA might take place in the wolf. As a result, the comparative analysis of DNA produced an error.

The results of the Russian-Vietnamese Tropical Center expedition, 2006-2009, the purpose of which was to run a survey of the variation of the aboriginal dogs of Vietnam, allowed the analysis of the origins and evolution of the domesticated dog from a different perspective.

In 2008, in the Ma River Valley (Khanh Hoa Province) I discovered a very small population of wolf-like dogs, extremely similar to Indian and Arabian subspecies of wolves. The distribution of this variety of dog is limited in a small territory populated by Man people, one of the tribes of Miao (Hmong). According to available data, these people are one of the first ethnic groups to have settled in contemporary Vietnam, which took place about 1000 years ago, near the once large principality of Champa. A high percentage of the people of this principality originally came from India. If 150 years ago Ch. Darwin had reliable information, one of his sources reported that in the upper Gung River the local people had similar dogs. We can believe that this was one hypothetical way of populating Indochina with wolf-like dogs. According to paleontological data, the gray wolf never existed here. However, Dinesh K. Sharma, Jesus E. Maldonado, Yadrendradev V. Jhala and Robert C. Fleischner (2003) are sure that the Indian wolf (from India and Pakistan), which they consider a separate species and part of Himalayan wolves, did not leave a trace in the mt-DNA of the dogs of Vietnam and, therefore, could not originate from their populations. This does not matter. The fact of the survival of an aboriginal population of dogs with considerably greater similarity to wolves than to the breeds of wolf hybrids created by breeders, who were trying to maximize their similarity to wolf by selection, is most interesting. This indicates that the presence of morphological characteristics of domestication is not a necessary feature of domesticated dogs. The very fact of the existence of relic wolflike dogs tells us that at the first stages of the domestication of the wolf morphological (phenotypical) changes did not exist. It was simply a socialization of wolf to life with humans. This is done by Australian aborigines with the Dingo until present time. Probably in the past, the behavioral makeup of the wolf allowed this to be done without many difficulties. Thus, a wolf could become a dog and at the same time remain a wolf and even continue interbreeding with free feral wolves.

Based on the description above, I can say that some variety of wolf was one of ancestors of dog, but it was not enough to claim that only one wolf subspecies was the dog’s ancestor. Fossil remains of wolves cannot be considered a priori as belonging to the same species, because identical skeletons could belong to animals with different soft parts, systems and behavior, including way of life in general.

The development of morphological characteristics typical of domesticated dogs could appear at a considerably later time, after the wolf became domesticated. Perhaps, the traits of domestication in skeleton appeared last. Comparative morphology shows that in domesticated dogs of different breeds the same muscles can be attached not only to bone, but also with an expanding area of attachment, involving other muscles, tendons and skin and differ in the degree of differentiation and integration without changes in the shape of the bone.

Analyzing incipient breed formation (performed by the methods of primitive peoples’ selection), general trends in changes of dogs’ phenotype should be taken into account. Such markers of domestication as piebald color, lop ears, changes in shape of tail and structure of coat, etc. appear spontaneously as a result of systematic selection for behavior. These changes cause a shift in the chain reactions of regulatory mechanisms of homeostasis (D. K. Belyaev and L. N. Trut, 1989). The emergence of these characters in the offspring is not necessarily accompanied by their fixation in the subsequent generations, unless they are deliberately selected for breeding. The direction of selection depends primarily on the practical needs of life and economic activity of a particular ethnic group. Therefore, I see two basic types of selection for visible phenotype, deliberately or not, used in the process of breed formation, depending on the purpose of keeping dogs.

The first type includes cases, when dogs were needed for guarding or hunting. These dogs should retain a body size for optimal performance and have new conspicuous characteristics of the appearance, allowing them to be quickly distinguished from other animals. In this instance, the choice of traits for selection is determined by the benefits for working qualities and survival.


fig 1

The second type of selection includes cases, when dogs are considered as food. Then, the best result is achieved by selecting for juvenile traits. Infantile behavior is displayed as dependence on a higher ranking individual in a social group, in this case on the human owner, and a reduction in the size of the territory in which it roams. In physiology this selection favors neoteny, the acceleration of development and the ability to breed at a younger age. In the body structure, preferential traits are a shorter head with a dish face, a stronger pronounced stop, a domed skull and a smaller body size. A smaller dog requires a smaller amount of valuable protein rich food and it shortens the period of susceptibility to diseases caused by malnutrition. Besides, a small dog can be eaten by the family at one meal time, which is also important in an environment with a hot climate and without refrigerators. Such dogs become better adapted to survive on poor quality food, refuse and even coprophagy (Coppinger, R, and L. Coppinger, 2001).


fig 2

Because the ancestor of domesticated dogs with its characteristic “wild type” met the requirements of humans, it means that at that time there was no need to distinguish domesticated dog from its wild relatives. This is because they did not present any danger and did not cause any harm to humans. Therefore, the most likely reason for breeding dogs with a different appearance emerged with the appearance of livestock and poultry, subjects to depredation by wild Canidae. At the same time, there was an additional reason for selecting in favor of different dogs. Under conditions of a shortage of hunting grounds and conflicts between adjacent tribes, it was important that hunters could tell apart their own dogs from dogs of neighbors and conspicuous variation in dogs became beneficial. However, in either case, the cause-effect link is traced between population increase, transition to a settled way of life, deficit of food resources obtained by hunting and gathering and the establishment of certain complexes of domestication traits in local populations of dogs.


fig 3

This is well illustrated by comparing the pattern of the distribution of dogs of certain aboriginal breeds with the dispersion of different peoples in North Vietnam. The aboriginal dogs of Vietnam represent a unique model for study of microevolution, the mechanisms of domestication and the primitive formation of breeds.

In general, the dogs of North Vietnam are represented by a population with very diverse composition, in which all morphological markers of domestication are present. Persistently inherited morphological types are characterized by their own peculiar and limited complexes of characters. Many of Vietnamese breeds are absolutely identical to some old well known breeds, or their original types, of the world in their appearance and body structure. The regions of the world, where these breeds are traditionally bred, are separated by thousands of kilometers from the region of our study. The majority of the breeds we found in North Vietnam can be united in groups of close origin, in which transitional types and ancestral forms can be clearly observed, and they are represented by a series of forming variation.


fig 4

The dogs I named “Viet Dingo” are smallish dogs with infantile traits. These dogs are associated with the culture of rice paddies and typological traits of local populations allowing the tracing of directions of development of land for this form of agriculture. Thus, the maximal number of typological variants of Viet-Dingo is found in the eastern provinces of Lang Son and Tainguen, where Tai people live. Dogs of Viet-Dingo type are most numerous in North Vietnam, but their share in the local population declines from east to west and to north-west. The frequency of Viet-Dingo is highest mainly in the fertile valleys cultivated for rice production, but also in other regions with conditions unfavorable for agriculture, where people are poor and do not keep big dogs, because of food shortages. Moving along the river valleys to the west and north-west, the typological diversity of Viet-Dingo dogs declines and local populations are represented only by one-two types instead of the six types found in the eastern provinces. Judging by the variation series, this group of dogs originated as a result of the interbreeding of small Dingo-like dogs with Laika-like dogs either in north-eastern Vietnam or in the border territories with China.


fig 5

A large type of aboriginal dog is bred mainly by the Hmong, who until recently made a living by hunting, and the distribution of these dogs is clearly associated with the distribution of the Hmong people.


fig 6

It is possible to say that most probably the bobtail dogs of the Hmong, which are very similar to the now lost bobtail type of Karelian Bear Dog, called Shong were distributed from the Northern Province of Ha Gyang along the Shonglo River and further to the south into the province of Son La. Dogs that are phenotypicaly similar to Siberian Laikas and Arctic sled dogs (Figs. 1-5) are distributed in the form of a semicircle from the northern part of Lao Cai province, along the Shongda River, across northern part of Yen Bai, Tuyen Quang and Bac Can provinces to the center of Cao Bang province, in other words, from northwest to southeast and further to the east. These dogs are most typical in Lao Cai province and are rather common, but they decline numerically to the east. In Lao Cai, we found the best looking representatives of this breed, very similar to big Japanese Laika-like dogs, and populations of ancestral Chau-Chau (Bakha Dog) are concentrated here. Smallish Laika-like dogs similar to Karelo-Finnish Laikas and Spitzes are most likely the product of mixing with small Dingo-like dogs (Fig. 6).

fig 7

fig 7

The series of variation is best represented in the group of hound-like dogs, starting from a primitive type identical to the hounds of Tibet, West China, known in Russian literature as Mahugou (Fig. 7), to a primitive sighthound type (Fig. 8) and to various variants of analogs of ancient Russian scent hounds (Fig. 9) and dogs similar to the modern Foxhound (Fig. 10), Labrador Retriever ( Fig. 11) and to dogs very similar to herding dogs of Scotland (Fig. 12) and also to types of livestock guarding dogs of Tajikistan and Tibet (Figs. 13), Caucasian and Karakachan Dogs, but relatively smaller in size (Figs. 14-16).

fig 8-11

fig 8-11

fig 12-15

fig 12-15

fig 16

fig 16

Different forms of dogs I included in the scent hound type dogs group are distributed mainly in provinces of Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Tuyen Quang. They were most diverse in Lao Cai province. The uniqueness of this series of variation is in the fact that there is nowhere else in the world a continual transition between types of dogs considered by cynologists as breeds of absolutely different origin and purpose. The theoretical projection of the series of variation in both groups in the direction of diminishing specialization of the appearance brings us to a prototype (archetype) common to both Laika-like and hound-like dogs. I was lucky to find a type of dog that combined in its appearance basic traits of both groups. I think that the pictures alone show that this prototype is one step different from the wolf. However, if we consider the variation series of the scent hound group, selecting only light and medium built dogs, their hypothetical ancestor would be very different. In this case, the variation series will be ascending to dogs that I tentatively named the Big Chinese Dingo.

fig 17

fig 17

The North Vietnamese type of Big Dingo (Figs. 17-18) has differences from the South Vietnamese Dingo, which were probably caused by interbreeding with Laika-like and scent hound-like dogs. I can say that this type is closer to the wolf, especially to the Tibetan wolf. The big Indochinese Dingo is not numerous in Vietnam, although it occurs in most of the regions surveyed by the expedition.

Its southern morphological type (Fig. 20) is very similar in the appearance to the basic, not mixed, type of Australian Dingo. However, the Australian Dingo often has domestication markers and pedomorphic traits characteristic of the North Vietnamese “Viet-Dingo”. According to the results of molecular genetic studies, the time of divergence of the Australian Dingo from Dingo-like dogs of Southern China, Taiwan and Polynesia, belonging to the same form as the “Viet- Dingo”, was determined as 5,000 years (Savolainen, 2002). The Big Indo-Chinese Dingo is probably considerably older than the age of populations in the regions surveyed.

fig 19

fig 19

fig 18

fig 18

The Australian Dingo had been secondarily changed to running wild during several thousands of years until recent times, when a considerable part of its population became mixed with stray dogs of European and American breeds. Nevertheless, it retained and possibly even obtained new, stabile morphological traits identical to the Big Indo-Chinese Dingo. Under conditions of genetic isolation and feral life, the Australian Dingo did not develop traits similar to the wolf or jackal, surpassing those in variation of the Big Indo-Chinese Dingo.

fig 20

fig 20

On the other hand, it is even more surprising that in the territory of Indochina a form of the Big Indochina Dingo survived. In the best representatives of it, “wild” traits are even more pronounced than in the Australian Dingo. While being selected for behavior under conditions of domesticated life, the Big Indochinese Dingo should be subject to destabilizing selection and, living among Dingo-like, Laika-like and houndlike dogs, it should be genetically influenced by interbreeding with them. However, for some reason, some of the Big Dingos, living in different corners of Indochina, remain absolutely identical to type and have the same measurements, body structure and appearance. Such stability of morpho-type most likely tells us that other morpho-types, occurring around these dogs, are its descendants.

Based on these observations and considering the origin of dogs diligently, it would be reasonable to suppose that the Big Indochinese Dingo retains an unchanged complex of morphological characters of its ancestor, just as the wolf-like dog of the province of Thanh Hoa retains the traits of the wolf.

fig 21

fig 21

Unfortunately, the program of studies of the aboriginal dogs of Indochina was cut short at half way and we did not have enough time to the complete survey of dogs of Southern Vietnam. Now, using fragmentary and scarce data we can restore the general pattern of typological diversity of the dogs of the southern center of formation of breeds in Vietnam. Probably, its center was near the shores of the Siam Gulf or Andaman Sea. If the Australian Dingo carries intermediate traits of southern and northern Vietnamese dogs, then New Guinea Singing Dogs belong to the southern center of breed formation, to which dogs of Southern and Western Indochina also belong, as well as the dogs of the eastern shores of India (Figs. 21).

The result of the comparison of morpho-typical traits of dogs of the southern center of breed formation compels us to accept that the northern morpho-type of Big Indochinese Dingo was primary in relation to the southern one. The northern morpho-type was almost certainly ancestral to the variation series of big Dingo-like dogs. However, with small Dingo-like dogs of the southern center, the picture is not that simple. Among small southern Dingoes, there is one type, which represents the regular result of the reduction of body size, but it is relatively rare. The majority of small dingoes are represented by the variation with too big a hiatus, separating them from the Big Dingo, and, according to known regularities of changes in body structure caused by diminishing size; they cannot be drawn directly out of the Big Dingo.

In the example of the longhaired variation of small Dingo-like dogs of the southern center of breed formation , it seems that the ancestral form of this group had much in common with the morpho-type of red wolf.

The southern morpho-type of Big Indochinese Dingo could be the result of interbreeding the northern morpho-type with an ancestral form of small southern dingoe. Because nothing is known about the existence of hybrids of the Dhole with dogs and nobody ever checked the possibility of such crossing, we can propose that at some time in the past either a sibling species of Dhole was domesticated or the evolution of big and small Dingo-like dogs of the southern center of breed formation was going on independently at a different time and in different regions.

The origin of small Dingo-like dogs out of wild ancestors is corroborated by the unusual physical peculiarities of the New Guinea Singing Dog that are poorly specialized in running but are well adapted to climbing and agility. Dissection of a small Dingo-like dog killed by an accident, purchased during the work of the expedition, showed that the amplitude of rotation movement of the forearm was about 1.5 times that of an ordinary dog. This dog was very similar to the New Guinea Singing Dog. Study of the proximal radius-ulna joint allowed us to discover the presence of a sesamoid bone, which protects the joint on the lateral side. Unfortunately, I could not confirm the presence of this trait in other representatives of this morpho-type, because of the premature closure of the research program. A similar and not constantly present structure in about the same part of body, the sesamoid bone in the tendon of musculus supinator, is found in the coydog (coyote and wolf hybrid, “Miller’s Anatomy of Dog”).

While discussing topics of comparative anatomy, I will make clear the following: we are interested in the possible inheritance of anatomical peculiarities from wolf to dogs of different breeds, because we have chosen the wolf as the “gold standard” of a healthy anatomy. The goals of my work are rather practical, they are usually considered as topics of veterinary medicine. First, until now, I had in my possession corpses of wolves sampled from populations of Tver, Rostov and Voronezh provinces, all territories known as places where in recent times wolves and dogs have interbred. In two cases I found characteristics of possible crossing with dogs. Second, these territories are very close geographically, and, therefore, I cannot extend the obtained results to all subspecies of wolf across its vast geographic range.

Evaluating the direction of morphological changes, I assume that specialization to running (both wolf and dog are specialized runners) always results in the reduction of the complexity of the locomotion apparatus numerically, for example, the structural consolidation of originally separate muscles with the enhancement of their integration.

Anatomically, dogs of different breeds conspicuously differ from each other. It is not quite a joke, when we say that the anatomy of dog does not exist; there is only morphology, because the range of variation is too big for one species. When we compare dog with wolf, supposedly dog’s ancestor, sometimes we find a mismatch. Some of the traits may be inherited and some may be lost. There are known cases of the loss of muscles as a result of dwarfism or specialization and some muscles can become hypertrophic. Finally, a new trait can emerge, not existing in the ancestral form. However, if we find an archaic trait in some breed of dog, which is absent in the supposedly ancestral form, but is typical of a higher taxonomical rank, then there is reason to doubt whether the modern wolf was ancestor of the dog.

Speaking of hereditary succession, not all found discrepancies can be easily explained. Thus, in sighthounds, whose locomotion apparatus is more similar to that of the wolf than that of other dogs, peculiarities of the integration and differentiation of the muscle-tendon system could be inherited from the wolf or obtained independently in the process of specialization. Therefore, comparing wolf and dog anatomically, I offer only one example, which in my opinion is vulnerable to criticism.

As I mentioned above, some scientists draw a line between wolf and dog based on craniological indexes. I paid more attention to the structure of the frontal bone. As a result of research of skeletal material in our collection, I found the following:

fig 26

fig 26

– The posterior chamber of the frontal cavity of the wolf (Figs. 22-23) has a complex architecture, which is relatively low at the medial margin, curved and higher positioned at the entrance and opening into the anterior chamber, which is connected with the dorsal nasal passage.

fig 23

fig 23

– In dogs (except the Hortaya, German Shepherd Dog and East European Shepherd Dog, which are similar in these features to the wolf) the posterior chamber of the frontal cavity (Figs. 24-26) is large and high, with a simpler architecture and has a wide, straight and low positioned entrance opening immediately into the nasal passage.-In the wolf, the area of the perforated plate is approximately 1.5-2 times as large as that in the dog, proportionally to body size.

fig 24-26

fig 25

fig 25

The differences described above are easy to explain by functional anatomy. Frontal cavities, besides their function of a protective cushioning of the frontal bone, serve as an important part of the thermo-regulation of the body. One major problem of marathon runners is the disposal of excess heat generated in the muscles (Coppinger, L&R. Coppinger, 2002). In the process, maintaining the optimal temperature of the brain is most important (Schmidt-Nielsen, 1972). The main way of cooling the body of the dog and the wolf is by evaporation from the surfaces of the tongue, mouth and nose. However, the perforated plate, bordering the hard wall of the brain and with the rostral epidural net, serves as an effective radiator of heat as well. This way of cooling the brain is important to such an extent that in puppies, from birth to about one month, when heat loss is dangerously high, the perforated plate is separated from the brain wall with pads of fat (Fig. 27). Under conditions when the air temperature is significantly lower than body temperature, the role of the frontal cavities is to protect the brain from hypothermia.

fig 27

fig 27

A thin layer of warm air with its low circulation becomes beneficial and this is what we observe in the wolf. However, in the tropics, when high air temperature is combined with high humidity, conditioning the body temperature with this mechanism does not work. In the thermo-regulation of the aboriginal dogs of Vietnam, compared with breeds of European origin, perspiration from the abdominal skin and the reduction of heat generation in the body become very important. In the tropical environment, there is a high danger of overheating shock caused by strong insulation even when weather is cloudy and foggy. Short hair on the forehead of the dog cannot protect the brain from overheating. The surface of the body exposed to the sun can heat up to 10-20° C higher than the ambient air temperature. In such a case, to prevent the transmission of heat from the surface of the forehead to the brain, the frontal large cavities with fast air circulation coming from the nasal passages through a wide entrance opening is very helpful. Thus, the analysis of the structure of the frontal cavities in dogs and wolves shows their original adaptation to different environments, which required different mechanisms of thermoregulation. In my view, this is a strong argument in favor of J. Koler-Matznik’s view that Dingo-like dogs did not originate from the wolf.

Summarizing the results of our work, I think that most likely the domesticated dog originated from several subspecies of wolf and a now extinct wild form of Dingo, not excluding other ancestral forms.

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[] A Review: The Use of Livestock Protection Dogs in Association with Large Carnivores in the Rocky Mountains

A Review: The Use of Livestock Protection Dogs in Association with Large Carnivores in the Rocky Mountains
Author: C. Urbigkit and J. Urbigkit

Livestock protection dogs (LPDs) in the United States have helped to protect livestock herds from certain predators, but expanding large-carnivore populations pose new challenges, and the number of LPDs killed by large predators is increasing. We conducted a literature review to identify LPD breeds that may be more suited for use around large carnivores, such as gray wolves. The use of spiked collars to increase the survivability for LPDs in areas of coexistence with large carnivore populations is also discussed. This paper advances the adoption of techniques and LPD breeds used outside of the United States in areas where large carnivores exist with livestock production.

Click here to read the full article originally posted on


Posted in Behavior, Dog Links, Dog Related Articles, Dogs, History, Wildlife

My article on the six native Japanese dog breeds has been published!

An article I wrote for the Primitive and Aboriginal Dogs Society (PADS) on the indigenous Japanese breeds, titled “The Nihon Ken”, has been published in PADS Journal #30.

Check it out:

To learn more about PADS, check them out on the web at To learn more about the six native Japanese breeds (the Nihon Ken), check out The Nihon Ken Forum at

Special thanks to everyone that helped with the article and allowed me to use their photographs!

Posted in Behavior, Breeding, Dog Related Articles, Dogs, Genetics, Health, History

Guard Dog vs. Watchdog

I see the terms “watchdog” and “guard dog” used on the web as if they are interchangeable, but they aren’t. There is a difference between a guard dog and a watchdog – a big one.

Kona: Kai Ken - On The Look OutWatchdog: A Watchdog, also called an “Alarm Dog”, is a dog that is used to warn their owner that something is not right, typically by barking. A common example of the use of a watchdog is to warn their owner of an intruder or trespasser. Watchdogs tend to bark a lot. A watchdog should not be expected to engage (bite) a threat, or even to hold their ground, their job is simply to “sound the alarm”. A good watchdog can sound the alarm and stay out of danger until “backup” arrives to take action. Watchdogs come in many different sizes and shapes. A large size, courage, and amazing strength are not necessarily requirements for a watchdog.

JJ - Cane CorsoGuard Dog: A Guard Dog is a dog that is used to guard property or livestock (which includes their family – human, canine, feline, fish, bird…). While guard dogs may “alert” like a watchdog, they are also expected to engage (bite) a threat if needed. Typically a guard dog uses a forceful “display” to drive (scare) a threat away while holding their ground and engaging the threat if the initial display is not enough of a deterrent. A good guard dog should always give a clear warning before moving in for a bite – the display is their first line of defense. Guard dogs typically come in 2 packages: large and thick-coated livestock guardians, and large short-coated bully/mastiff type dogs. With the exception being some of the pinscher (terrier) breeds and some shepherd breeds (like the GSD). Size, strength, tenacity, courage, and a level-headed outlook are import traits of a guard dog.

Throughout history the watchdog has been deployed alongside the larger guard dog. The watchdog would act as the alarm while the guardian would come in to take action. Examples of this type of arrangement can be found from Italy, where the Volpino Italiano worked alongside the Cane Corso and Neapolitan Mastiff, from Tibet where the Lhasa Apso and Tibetan Spaniel worked alongside their large guardian counterparts, the Tibetan Mastiff.

Unlike some Protection and Service Dogs, who sometimes require 100s of hours of training (think “Police Dog” or “Military Dog”), watchdogs and guard dogs do not typically need any training for their job, they perform these roles instinctively and autonomously. Actually, it’s my experience that you spend more time training guardians when NOT to guard than when to guard. Like a guard dog, the best Personal Protection Dogs (PPDs) will have a natural protective instinct too, but with the drive to follow-through. Since PPDs are often deployed in public situation (not private property, like a guard dog) the PPD requires a lot of specialized training to ensure the public’s safety.

There is also another type of security dog: the Personal Protection Dog (PPD). These dogs also work on instinct, but are typically always with their human. They’re rarely expected to sit back at home and guard the property while their owner is gone – instead they would be with their owner as their primary job is to protect their owner from “bad guys”. These dogs require a lot of training in the area of obedience and control, and probably pose the highest liability to the owner. A typical should be expected to engage and eliminate threats – without guidance from their handler. These dogs “read” the situation, and act on instinct to protect their human. These dogs require a lot of socialization so they can best “read” their environment and different scenarios.

Posted in Behavior, Dog Related Articles, Dogs, Training