Tag Archives: Dog

Wolves, dogs and dingoes

Dogs are generally considered the first domesticated animal, while its ancestor is generally considered to be the wolf, but where the Australian dingo fits into this framework is still debated, according to a retired Penn State anthropologist.

“Indigenous Australians understood that there was something different about the dingoes and the colonial dogs,” said Pat Shipman, retired adjunct professor of anthropology, Penn State.  “They really are, I think, different animals. They react differently to humans. A lot of genetic and behavioral work has been done with wolves, dogs and dingoes. Dingoes come out somewhere in between.”

A) Person holding the front paws of a dingo spread wide.  B) Shows a dingo climbing rocks. Image: Lyn Watson

Wolves, dogs and dingoes are all species of the canidae family and are called canids. In most animals, hybridization between closely related species does not happen, or like female horses and male donkeys, produce mules — usually non-fertile offspring.  However, many canid species, including wolves, dingoes and dogs, can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Defining species boundaries in canids becomes more difficult.

Domestic dogs came to the Australian continent in 1788 with the first 11 ships of convicts, but dingoes were already there, as were aboriginal Australians who arrived on the continent about 65,000 years ago. A large portion of dingoes in Australia today have domestic dog in their ancestry, but dingoes came to Australia at least 4,000 years ago according to fossil evidence. Shipman believes that date may be even earlier, but no fossils have yet been found.

“Part of the reason I’m so fascinated with dingoes is that if you see a dingo through American eyes you say, ‘that’s a dog,'” said Shipman. “In evolutionary terms, dingoes give us a glimpse of what started the domestication process.”

Shipman reports her analysis of wolves, dogs and dingoes in a January 2021 special issue of the Anatomical Record.

Dingoes, and the closely related New Guinea singing dogs, look like the default definition of dog, but they are not dogs. 

“There is a basic doggy look to dingoes,” said Shipman.

Genetically and behaviorally they differ from dogs and are more like wolves in their inability to digest starches and their relationships with humans. 

Most domestic dogs evolved along with humans as humans became agriculturalists and moved to a diet containing large amounts of starch, whether from maize, rice, potatoes or wheat. Their genome changed to allow the digestion of these starches. Dingoes, like wolves, have very few of the genes for starch digestion.

While indigenous Australians stole dingo puppies from their dens and raised them, these puppies generally left human homes at maturity and went off to breed and raise offspring. The ability to closely bond with humans is limited in dingoes, although present in dogs. Native Australians also did not manipulate dingo breeding, which is a hallmark of domestication.

Dingoes are also well-adapted to the Australian outback and fare well in that environment. Domestic dogs that become feral do not survive well in the outback.

“Aboriginal Australians were not well-regarded as holders of knowledge or special skill when Europeans came to the continent,” said Shipman. “So, no one thought to ask them about dingoes. Even recently, asking aboriginals for their scientific or behavioral knowledge really was not common.”

However, aboriginal Australians have a long history of living with dingoes in their lives. Many people argue that dingoes are just dogs — strange dogs, but just dogs, said Shipman.  But, according to aboriginals, dingoes are not dogs.

With dingoes showing behaviors somewhere between wolves and dogs and exhibiting only slight genetic ability to consume starchy foods or tolerate captivity, Shipman concluded that “A dingo is a wolf on its way to becoming a dog, that never got there.”

Source: Penn State News

Doggy quote of the month for October

All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.

– Charles M. Schulz

Doggy quote of the month for December

“Thorns may hurt you, men desert you, sunlight turn to fog; but you’re never friendless ever, if you have a dog.”

– Douglas Malloch, poet

Izzy of The Balanced Dog

The Dog Lawyer

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Jeremy Cohen of Boston Dog Lawyers.

Yes – your dog can have a lawyer.  Or, more accurately, you can hire a lawyer to advocate for you and your dog.

Boston Dog Lawyers picture

It’s a sad fact that many dogs are often destroyed because poor laws and policy deem them to be dangerous.  Jeremy thinks we can do better and has a range of trainers, behaviorists and other experts he can call upon to represent an alternative position.

Couples who haven’t married legally may find themselves fighting over ‘ownership’ of their pet.  Custody battles are another area of the practice.

Jeremy is profiled in my column this month in NZ Dog World magazine.

I particularly like Jeremy’s simple to understand bite prevention tips:

Boston Dog Lawyers – Bite Prevention Tips

Never allow your dog to be alone with children under age 12
Integrate your dog into your family and don’t segregate it
Follow the leash law
Use the leash when entering and exiting the car
Exercise your dog daily
Post signs if dog is aggressive
Keep current with licensing and shots

Boston Dog Lawyers logo

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for April

‘The dog is man’s best friend.

He has a tail on one end.

Up in front he has teeth.

And four legs underneath.’

– Ogden Nash, American poet

Izzy at Groynes


Firefighters rescue dog from burning home

A Sacramento homeowner’s smoke alarms did their job this week by waking the family so they could evacuate and raise the alarm with fire crews.

Unfortunately, it looks like their dog was left inside (dogs may run and hide during these situations; there is commotion and stress and people do not always think clearly – in terms of being able to get their dog out of the house with them).

Fire video screen shot

The Sacramento Fire Department did a great job in finding the dog, and his rescue was caught on ‘helmet cam’

You can view the video by following this link to a CBS news report.  The video is also available on the Fire Department’s Facebook page.

Smoke alarms save lives.  Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day – show your dog that you love them by checking that your smoke alarms are working.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

“Dog” (an appropriately named book)

Mitra Farmand is a comic book artist.  When she was studying at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, she was given an assignment.

“We had to draw a cartoon from a dream and I was dreaming about my dog a lot because she had just died.”

She called the book Dog (the original title was Gone – but she didn’t want to give away the ending).

I contacted Mitra through her website to see if she would allow me to publish some of the sketches from Dog.  She was very gracious and sent me a number – only some of which I will use here – because I’d like you to support this artist and buy her book (and other drawings).

Dog by Mitra FarmandDog, a small book of only 20 pages, would make a great gift this Christmas for any dog lover.  And it covers, with sensitivity and heart, the feeling of those days after you’ve lost a loved dog.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Dogs capable of interspecies adoption

Interspecies relationships often make the news as human interest stories.  Dogs have developed caring relationships for a variety of species, including cats, rabbits, and lambs.

What this means, essentially, is the great depth at which dogs have emotional lives and the capacity to bond.  They bond to us – why not to other animals?

This video, of an Australian Dalmatian who took a spotted lamb under its protection, is an example of the interspecies bond that dogs can form.

What stories do you have about a dog bonding with another animals?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Proud Mum

It has been a great week for Izzy (and it’s only Wednesday!).

Over the weekend, she was my ‘demo dog’ at workshops to teach owners how to give their own dogs a relaxation massage.   Izzy is very comfortable on  my massage table and chose to remain there during the last half of the workshop rather than getting down on the floor…

Izzy relaxes on my massage table during my "Learn Dog Massage" workshop

Izzy relaxes on my massage table during my “Learn Dog Massage” workshop

And then on Monday night, she visited a local scout group so our local coordinator for Greyhounds as Pets could talk about the re-homing of retired greyhounds.  Izzy loves children, and soaked up all their love and affection.

Izzy at ScoutsIMG_0380












I’m so proud!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Throwaway pups…

This article from the Guardian, Throwaway pup trend makes Britons dogs’ worst enemies is sobering.  It talks about disposable pups, bought with little or no knowledge of how to care for them, and fueling a demand for irresponsible breeding with the subsequent flow-on effects for animal welfare and adoptions.

But what I found really interesting is a quote from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals spokeswoman, Vicki Larkham.  “Millions of dogs aren’t getting off-the-lead exercise outside their home or garden for 10 minutes or more on a daily basis.  Close to a quarter of a million never go for walks on their lead for 10 minutes or more at all.  ”

A minimum of 10 minutes?  Are you kidding?

I support a minimum of 30 minutes, and twice a day.  Most sources I read suggest a minimum of 30 minutes once a day…but 10 minutes?  Where did that come from?

If you think walking a dog for 10 minutes a day will result in a happy, healthy and well-adjusted dog, you are kidding yourself.  Do everyone a favour and don’t get a dog…

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand