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Humans, Dogs, and Civilization.
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Past Group Book Discussions: > Humans, Dogs, and Civilization. by Elaine Ostrach Chaika

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Barbara (lv2scpbk) | 1256 comments Mod
Please discuss Humans, Dogs, and Civilization here:

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Stewart McFarlane (mcfarlane) | 147 comments Mod
This is a well written and insightful book. The author is a Professor of Linguistics, but has studied canine behavior and development for decades, having been inspired by Konrad Lorenz pioneering work “Man Meets Dog” (German edition 1949, English 1954). I must have read it in English in 1962.
In the first part of her book, Dr Chaika demonstrates the intelligence and resourcefulness of dogs in the way they interact with humans. Many are based on her own observations; and most dog owners would confirm her observations and conclusions. The illustrative stories are delightful in themselves. For example, the little family dog who would walk her to school and meet her at the school gate at home-time. The dog also protected her from a group of older bullies on the street, by basically herding them as if they were flock of sheep. Similarly, the little sheepdog would round up guests at a party and put them in groups, reminded me of my Sheltie 45 years ago. Another clever little dog would steal fish from fishermen, by running madly round in circles, near the creels, then darting in and stealing a fish when the fishermen had ignored it, having concluded that the dog was a harmless nut. The purpose of this last story is to show how dogs have a theory of mind. This means that dogs behave in a way that suggests that they are, like humans, aware that other creatures have minds just as they do. It goes further and suggests that dogs can predict the behavior of others, and even manipulate that behavior. As an owner of dogs for most of my life, and a one who has seen them do amazing things, I can only agree with this.
The author also shows how dogs have developed particular ways of communicating with humans through eye contact; way beyond the skills used in hunting prey or even herding flocks. Part of her argument here is to show how different dogs are from wolves. Even though they share 98% of the same DNA, behaviourally, and in terms of their social structure, dogs and wolves are very different. Dr Ostrach Chaika rightly points out that it is the genes within the DNA which is behind many of the differences
Wolves, even tame ones, will not look into the eyes of humans or read their body language in the way dogs do. They are simply not human orientated. I spend quite a lot of time with Thai stray and feral dogs. Their reading of human faces and body language is just as developed as that of pet dogs. This is not surprising; they need to know quickly if a human is friendly or means them harm. They instantly identify me as friendly, from a distance, even if they have never seen me before. I can see them closely observing my face and movements. Wolves don’t to do this, though wild foxes who get used to being fed by humans, do look at the face and beg with their eyes. I have taken photos of them doing this.
Dr Chaika argues that dogs and wolves should be regarded as a separate species, despite the fact that large dogs can interbreed with wolves. She argues that since the most recent genetic evidence suggests that Dogs and Wolves began to split as long as 5 million years ago (Novembre 2014) or at least 2 million years ago (Semyonova 2010), then we have to re-think the prehistory of dogs and humans. The DNA evidence clearly shows that dogs existed as identifiably separate from wolves, long before homo sapiens (thats us) existed. Homo sapiens have only existed for 200,000 years, but were preceded by homo erectus such as Neanderthals, and before that by homo habilis. This group of ancestors is interesting, because about 2 million years ago they were making stone tools to kill and cut up large game. The author suggests that maybe the dogs became interested in this process, and perhaps that is when they started to follow humans and help them hunt; long before homo sapiens existed.
The author rejects the fanciful theory that dogs emerged after humans adopted wolf cubs and tamed them, then selectively bred them. She points out that it would have been virtually impossible to do that with wolves. She argues that dogs already existed and that they followed humans (either us or our immediate ancestors) and helped them hunt, and eventually helped homo sapiens herd large groups of animals such as horses, sheep and cattle, which could then be domesticated. The process of herding is what really marks the beginning of human civilization. When we had herds, we needed the means to protect them and control them, hence we needed dogs even more. We also needed settled communities and notions of stock ownership and means of trading. We also need the means to feed herds, hence sericulture developed. The author may have exaggerated the role of fences in the early phases of herding. Even today in many parts of the world, herds are kept unfenced, only protected and contained by dogs. But the need for rules regarding access to land for grazing, certainly helped develop civilization, and eventually concepts of private land and property.
The pay-off for the dogs in all this was that they had a steady food source, as well as protection from the humans they adopted, and they were no longer directly competing for food with the larger, more powerful wolves. Initially the dogs could discover prey and drive it, while attracting humans (by barking), and the humans could carry out the kill with their weapons, thus minimizing the risks to the dogs. Dogs bark a lot, especially when hunting, wolves by contrast do not bark, and hunt silently. Once dogs and humans became herders of flocks and herds of animals, their food supply is guaranteed and they no longer have to depend on hunting and gathering to eat.
One important development, is that dogs became omnivores while wolves didn’t. Dogs have a stomach enzyme which enables them to break down and digest starch, so their diet can be part vegetable based. Wolves are pure carnivores. They can only get vegetable matter by eating the stomach and contents of their prey, ie part digested; which is what they do. If they really need vegetable matter, wolves will eat the stomach of their kills first. Dogs almost certainly developed the omnivorous capability as a result of interaction with humans. I know of sheepdogs in the hills of Yorkshire and Scotland, whose diet is almost entirely porridge, bread and cattle cake, and I know cattle herding dogs in Thailand who are fed almost entirely on boiled rice.
The pay-off for the humans in the process of associating with dogs, was that they had hunting companions with incredible skills in detecting and pursuing prey, who later developed skills in driving and protecting herds; as well the ability to detect intruders and guard camps. This enabled human brains to develop and refine language skills, because they didn’t need such efficient scenting and hearing skills, they had the dogs for that. About 40% of the dog’s brain is concerned with scenting and processing scent information. By working together, dogs and humans became incredibly efficient. Humans didn’t need to be particularly fast runners to hunt or herd, they had the dogs for that. A shepherd with two dogs can easily control a flock of 200 hundred sheep, even in open country. By refining the communication between humans and dogs, we were able to become civilized and became free to concentrate on skills functions which made us more civilized.
Because the skill of dogs in herding livestock, was so central to this process, the author rightly devotes much attention to herding. One aspect if this is the fact that non herding breeds also have residual herding skills and instincts. She describes how even her little Maltese would herd things, a breed with no herding background. I can confirm this behavior, as I remember the farm terriers in Yorkshire habitually herding the ducks and chickens, and my wife’s little terrier regularly herds the chickens out of my Mother-in-law’s house when they have wandered in. The free range cattle in Thailand are often guarded and herded by Doberman and/or Rottweiler crosses. These powerful and fast dogs are smart enough to deal with the herds and even with stubborn and uncooperative bulls. Just like a regular shepherd dog, they will stare a confrontational bull down until he backs off and turns. Paddy, my rescued Irish Setter of 30 years ago adored horses. He would befriend a horse, nose to nose and then just follow it around. One of the reasons he loved agility training was that we trained at a couple of stables, and he would always be pleased to see the ponies. Pepsi, my German Shepherd, has the same feel for horses.
So to summarise the argument of, “Humans, Dogs & Civilization”: The presence of early humans created an ecological niche which dogs, already in existence as a separate species, (maybe subspecies) were able to exploit, by attaching themselves to humans and creating a unique symbiotic partnership. That partnership soon flourished due to the unique ability of dogs to herd, control and protect large groups of livestock. This ensured a reliable food supply for both. This enabled humans to develop their unique skills in language, tool development and concepts of ownership which formed the basis of human civilization. Dogs, with their unique abilities in communication and scenting, continue to serve human interests in many ways, from cancer and drug detection, service work, companionship, security work, search and rescue, as well the old skill of herding and protecting livestock. Like the author, in view of this unique and ancient bond, I find that human cruelty to, and neglect of dogs, all the more appalling and unacceptable.
I think her argument, and the supporting evidence, may well explain why so many humans, including me, have such a strong affinity with dogs. We are ancient companions, and dogs have helped make us what we are. This is an excellent and thought provoking book. It should be read by dog lovers and anyone with an interest in human pre-history.

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Barbara (lv2scpbk) | 1256 comments Mod
Wow! Thanks for the great insight and review Stewart.

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Arlene Weintraub | 10 comments In enjoying this book and particularly like the part where the author confesses to allowing her dogs to beg at the table. I grew up in a household where feeding the dogs from the table was forbidden, but my husband fed his dog growing up whatever he was eating and his parents didn't stop him. Now my husband and I argue about whether to let our dog beg! Reading Elaine's book, I now wonder if I'm somehow depriving our dog of her instinctual need to beg and get fed from the table. Anyone else have opinions on this issue?


Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 43 comments Stewart wrote: "This is a well written and insightful book. The author is a Professor of Linguistics, but has studied canine behavior and development for decades, having been inspired by Konrad Lorenz pioneering w..." THANK YOU STEART FOR THE WONDERFUL REVIEW. I WORKE VERY HARD ON THAT BOOK & IT'S GRATIFYING TO KNOW REDERS APPRECIATE IT.


rb wrote: "Please discuss Humans, Dogs, and Civilization here:"

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 43 comments Excuse my poorly spelled thank you for your review. The doorbell was ringing & I had to get up in a hurry to let company in. I thank you for the wonderful review I hoped, all the time I was researching and writing that people would enjoy discovering what amazing creatures dogs are.

message 8: by Stewart, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stewart McFarlane (mcfarlane) | 147 comments Mod
It was a pleasure to read and review your fine book. Very timely. Yes dogs are amazing. I took my Mother a walk this morning down a lane in rural Lancashire, North West UK. We met a handsome farm collie who barked at us when we approached his farmyard. The reason; he was on duty, as his owners were out. I talked to him and made it clear we would not approach his house or the cattle in a byre, and he relaxed. The farmer came back in his truck, and the dog then ignored us completely and sprinted over the fields while his master followed on a quad-bike. The dog then roused a herd of about 150 sheep and herded them from a sodden meadow to higher ground where they could graze without risk of foot rot. He was careful to leave a sick straggler at the back of the herd for the farmer to tend to. It was a fine sight. Both dog and farmer had clearly done this routine hundreds of times. I normally carry my camera for such scenes, but had left it in the wrong bag.

message 9: by Stewart, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stewart McFarlane (mcfarlane) | 147 comments Mod
When i say i made it clear to the collie where i was going and not going, that was through my body language & direction of movement, I didn't expect him to understand exactly what i was saying verbally. Speaking to dogs in these situations is just to help calm them down. With a dog who is guarding property or stock,everything you say & do has to make it clear to the dog that you are not a threat, and that you acknowledge them & respect what they are doing. Normally when you do that, the ears go back and they give a slight embarrassed tail wag,and a dog smile. Respecting an unfamiliar dog's role & its space is important.Being told they are good dog for barking at you often surprises them, but it really works. They relax. just being acknowledged helps relax them.

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Barbara (lv2scpbk) | 1256 comments Mod
Stewart wrote: "Respecting an unfamiliar dog's role & its space is important.Being told they are good dog for barking at you often surprises them, but it really works. They relax. just being acknowledged helps relax them. ..."

I agree Stewart. I spoke to my sister's dog every time I would go in to enter her house. Her dog was blind. He knew you were there and would bark and come toward you. But, as soon as you let him know you were there he'd relax. I always said his name and talk to him when going on. As soon as he'd hear my voice he'd recognized me.

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 43 comments One of my great delights in my many trips to the UK was going to sheep dog trials. I don't know what you said to that collie, but she may have understood some of the words you used as well as body motion and facial expression. I am most interested in how you train a dog to move flocks so they won't get foot rot! I find that amazing.

I tell my fierce little Maltese to "shhh" when he's barking at other dogs, and he responds to the "shh" sound & my finger held up to my mouth. This quiets him instantly when he's trying prove to th big guys that he's not to be trifled with.

message 12: by Stewart, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stewart McFarlane (mcfarlane) | 147 comments Mod
The collie was a smart one for sure. You are right, he would certainly have recognised some of the words I used. His owners are farmers and probably speak in the local accent or even dialect, which I also speak, as I am from that area. It is interesting that some trainers of the "Dog Whisperer" type, such as Cesar Millan, rarely use language , almost everything is conveyed by the trainers stance and body language, and of course the "shsh", but to me it is natural to speak as well. As a University teacher for all my career, I guess that figures. The dog I was watching a couple of days ago was directed by the farmer to move the sheep up. But an experienced collie will move them away from a flooded field, or any other danger, without direction, on their own initiative. Ben the Irish Collie I describe in my book "OF MICE & ZEN" would spot sheep stuck on the rocky cliff ledges of the bay where their farm was on the Atlantic coast of Ireland. He would be up the cliff, gently coaxing them off to safety before any of us saw there was problem. He was a very smart, but typical working collie. His story is one of the favourites in that book. Whenever I see a collie at work with stock, I think of Ben, even though I knew him 50 years ago. But as you have shown in your book. The dogs you care for stay with you in memory all your life.

Of Mice and Zen. Animal Encounters in the Life of a Wandering Buddhist

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Barbara (lv2scpbk) | 1256 comments Mod
Stewart, I do both as well, speak and sometimes just motions. My dogs know the motion of sliding over on the couch by just me waving my hand. LOL.

I also don't have to speak when motioning for my dog to stay. He watches me and then I wave for him to go ahead and eat or whatever. He needed to learn patience, as he has zero. I started out slowly keeping him in hold for a few seconds and now he does it a little longer. He's a puggle, so he has no patience when he wants food. I've been trying to get him to not just dive in.

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Barbara (lv2scpbk) | 1256 comments Mod
Both my dogs have their own way of getting our attention to go outside to potty.

My oldest dog will rattle his collar and clink the two tags together. My older dog is a rat terrier / jack russell mix. He knows a lot of words too.

My youngest dog, I taught him to ring the bell to go out. Sometimes he rings and rings and rings without having patience for me to just get down the steps. lol. He's the puggle.

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 43 comments I'm getting your book, Stewart. I wish you had it on Banres & Noble as a Nook Book as well as on Kindle You might want to consider that especially since B&N have page numbers on their readers. They have a system, the only one in eBoookdom in which he page numbers remain the same no matter how large or small a font you us.

I see that you, too, are a Professor. Me too.

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Barbara (lv2scpbk) | 1256 comments Mod
The Kindle was suppose to start getting numbers on their books too. I think it's on some, but not all.

message 17: by Stewart, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stewart McFarlane (mcfarlane) | 147 comments Mod
Hi there. You can get it in e Pub form which is pdf combatible from my website: That format shouldvwork on as nook, but i am not certain. It will work on a laptop or computer in a reader app.

message 18: by Stewart, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stewart McFarlane (mcfarlane) | 147 comments Mod
The kindle pages numbering is a mess in most kindler books. With OF MICE AND ZEN it isn't too important,as each chapter is acself contained story or event. In more academic books it is annoying.
Our own dogs know us so well that speech is often not needed. They read our moods from face & body language. But it is still important to talk to them.

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Skye | 193 comments As a trainer, I have my student teach their dogs the Silent Sit, using food as a lure then fading it out after 2-3 trials yet using the same hand signal, commonly an upturned hand moving from waist high to higher. After a few days, I let them use a verbal cue which comes just before the hand signal. I teach hand signals for several reasons: dogs don't understand English. We will hopefully have them with us for many years, even when they get old and lose their hearing - then they will still have the hand signals. And, if the verbal cue conflicts with the hand signal, it is the hand signal that will overrule. And, finally, you cannot shout with a hand signal!

As for myself, I still use hand signals. I get my dog's attention by verbally calling his name, then I tell him what to do with my hand. Sit, stay, down, stand, spin or twist, finish, roll over, come, go through my legs (though the open stance is a body language signal because i don't use a hand signal for that). The automatic sit and stay at a closed door, to cross a street or for me to put down the food or hook up or unhook the leash doesn't really have a hand signal.

Sorry, this is probably more than you wanted to know!

Border collies are almost another species! They really don't have to be trained to herd. It is just their innate behavior that needs to be brought out.

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 43 comments No, I'm very interested in how you train your dogs.Obviously there are many tactics you can use. I myself am a woeful trainer, but I do socialize my dogs, mostly by verbal commands. The number of words they understand is , to me, awesome. If you read my book, I'd especially be interested in what you think of Skeezix Speaks: Eyetalking, and also of Theory of Mind. I'm sure you could add to my knowledge, coming at it fro mdifferent approaches. Maybe you can find errors in my discussion. I'd be interested in those as well.

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Stewart McFarlane (mcfarlane) | 147 comments Mod
Skye makes a very good point that you cannot shout with a hand signal. So if you are frustrated or angry, the signal is more neutral and less likely to make the dog uneasy. I like whistles for distance work for the same reason. I use long distance mountain rescue whistle for far distant recalls when i can't see the dogs, and a sheepdog,/gundog type whistle when they are closer.They are avery useful tool.But since some dogs do become deaf in old age, then hand signals are very valuable.

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 43 comments My dog, Skeezix, has gone blind from diabetes, but he still responds to speech. I notice that the things he was trained to do, he still does, so he hasn't forgotten his early training. I read Of Mice and Zen and found it very interesting. You've lived a fantastic life. I have a book, "Mice All Over,"a study of mouse society in a silo in UK that is very illuminating. These creatures we so blithely kill have full social lives, and complex, ordered social groupings including territorial rules.

message 23: by Stewart, Moderator (last edited May 14, 2015 12:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stewart McFarlane (mcfarlane) | 147 comments Mod
Wow that was quick. Glad you enjoyed OF MICE & ZEN. Mice and rats are fascinating,smart creatures. I woud never kill one, even the one i recently found raiding the dog biscuit bin. The rat just looked at me, so i put the lid back on,carried the bin outside,and let it go. The bin was near empty so no harm done.I left it the spoiled biscuits & washed out the bin. The calm look it returned when it realised it could'nt get out of the bin, really got to me. The large healthy,looking rat made eye contact, and he appeared to trust me. I warned him to stay away asbthe dogs are not so kind to rats. Similarly, any snakes which appear in the house or garden get taken out to the fields. I realise i talk to the snakes too. In a way pointless,as they are deaf; but my calm mental state & slow movements help to relax them,and they can sense vibrations,even those generated by speech.I have caught many snakes to help them to safety,and i have never been bitten. THailand is a great place for snake spotting. It am always happy to see snakes, even cobras & pit vipers. I shall check out the mouse book.

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