The Old Trainer: Man was trained by wolves?

May 18, 2013 

Note to readers: I promised to discuss ticks and heartworm this week, but readers responded with so much research material, I need time to review it. Look for the information in a few weeks.

Dear Old Trainer: I am in eighth grade. I told my teacher that you said dogs trained humans in the old days and not the other way around. Now I have to write a paper on it, but I don't know anything about it. How did it happen? — Donna, Fresno

A: For a long time, Donna, experts claimed the wolf was domesticated 15,000 years ago. Then, thanks to the discovery of DNA and how to use it, we discovered it was at least 30,000 years ago.

Now, with even more powerful scientific tools, we know it happened about 100,000 years ago. At that time man had just started walking upright. Wolves were faster, stronger, better hunters, had better hearing and a sense of smell 5,000 times as powerful. They also were smarter.

National Geographic and other prestigious scientific organizations now agree it was the wolf who took the first step toward partnership with man.

Wolves began to hang around early humans because of the ready source of food in the garbage and leftovers surrounding the camps. Wolves learned to read body language and manipulate these early humans. This skill gave the wolves who did it best an evolutionary advantage over those who could not.

Humans discovered the wolves' sense of smell and hearing gave man an advantage in hunting and defending against enemies. They took pups and trained them to hunt — the beginning of the modern dog.

The success of domesticating the wolf eventually led man to the idea of doing the same thing with crops, and they began to farm. The huge amounts of food produced by farming freed man for the first time to concentrate on other problems, so dogs are a cornerstone of modern civilization.

I emailed you several pages of research on this subject. Be sure to put it in your own words. Teachers will know if you don't.

Dear Old Trainer: Missy, my 2-year old English sheepdog, is so big she barely fits in the tub. When I finish, I am soaked and so is the bathroom. What do I do? — Darlene, Lincoln, Neb.

A: Bathe her outside. Dogs don't need a tub, shampoo or shower cap. Call her over to the garden hose. Use a leash to make sure she stays in place, and run water over her entire body, including feet and tail. Move your hand through her fur to ensure the water is getting down to the skin.

Talk to her and pet her to keep her calm. If she starts to shake, grab her by the fur on her neck and tell her, "don't shake." When you finish, say "shake," and pet her and praise her when she does.

Dry her with a towel and let her roll in the grass if she wants. She will smell good, her coat will be fluffy, and she will enjoy it so much she will come running the next time you pick up the hose.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to

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