Monday, February 25, 2013

What Every Psychologist Should Know About Writing Letters for Patients with Service Animals

Additional Note: A column in the January/February 2015 issue of Family Therapy (scroll to p. 64), a publication of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, describes how the columnist, Alli Spotts-De-Lazzer, reacted upon first being asked to write a letter for a patient with an emotional support animal.  Ms. Spotts-De-Lazzer, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, began reading and spoke with many of those who had published on the legal, ethical, and psychological aspects of the issue. She discusses the importance of such letters to patients, but also goes into the risks to a therapist who does not consider that writing such a letter is a serious responsibility. Her summary should be read by any mental health professional faced with a letter request.  

Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other medical professionals are increasingly asked to provide letters for users of service and support animals that will help get the animals into apartment buildings, airplanes, and even restaurants, or sometimes to justify a tax deduction for the dog as a medical expense.  Far too many professionals, faced with such a request, ask the patient to provide the letter for them to sign.  The Department of Transportation has told airlines that they may require that such a letter be on the professional’s letterhead and provide contact information for the professional’s licensing authority. Presumably the airline will contact the licensing authority if it believes the professional has been party to transforming an uncontrollable pet into a service animal.  Apartment and condominium owners may also ask for detailed information from medical and mental health professionals when a prospective tenant or buyer claims that a dog should be excepted from a no-pets policy. 

Most of the literature on the subject either takes the perspective of the person with the disability or the business or entity faced with admission of the animal, so Dr. J. Lawrence Thomas and I decided to take the viewpoint of the psychologist or other medical professional who is asked to write such a letter.  An analysis of case law turned up a number of situations where letters from professionals actually harmed a patient’s ability to get an animal, usually a dog, into restaurant, fly with it in an airplane, or live with it in a no-pets building.  One of the problems is that many professionals do not bother to learn that there is no one-size-fits-all letter that will help a patient in every situation.  A dog that is appropriate for an apartment building may not be well enough trained to behave in an airplane even if it provides its owner with emotional support.  A dog that is calm and controlled enough to fly in the cabin may nevertheless not meet Department of Justice criteria for entering a place of public accommodation, such as a restaurant. 

Patients should understand that the professionals they ask to write such letters may find themselves accused of ethical lapses if the professional’s letter claims more about the benefits of an animal than is actually the case.  They should not expect that a psychologist’s letter will upgrade a dog from a pet to an emotional support or service animal.  The psychologist is not a dog trainer but can evaluate how the functions the dog performs affect to the patient’s mental condition.  Patients should also understand that evaluating the patient’s use of the animal will take time for which the professional is entitled to charge.  Psychologists and other professionals should understand that they have an obligation to society as well as to the patient, and Dr. Thomas and I list eight broad issues that should be considered by a professional before writing a support letter. 

Our article, Writing Letters to Help Patients with Service and Support Animals, appears in the Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 13(2), March 2013, and can be read or downloaded from the Journal’s website. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

TSA’s Airport Canine Programs Need Better Management

Update Notes: In final rules concerning advanced imaging technology, issued March 3, 2016, the Transportation Security Administration states that "TSA may use advanced imaging technology [AIT] at security screening checkpoints." In the preamble to the final rules, the agency states that alternatives to AIT, such as explosive-detection canines and behavior detection screening, "are not as effective as AIT in screening a large volume of passengers in the least amount of time and require additional costs; however, TSA does use such alternatives whenever available as added layers of security at the airport."  Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, RIN-1652-AA67: Passenger Screening Using Advanced Imaging Technology.  81 Fed. Reg. 11364 (March 3, 2016).  This observation by DHS and TSA may explain the rather lackluster response described by the GAO in the next few paragraphs regarding the implementation of certain recommendations regarding passenger-screening canines. TSA may be increasingly regarding bomb dogs as a secondary and expensive fallback where advanced imaging technology cannot be or has not yet been installed.  

In a report released in February 2016, Status of GAO Recommendations on TSA's Security-Related Technology Acquisitions (GAO-16-176), the Government Accountability Office stated:

"In 2013, we recommended that TSA expand and complete testing, in conjunction with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, to assess the effectiveness of passenger screening canines (PSC) and conventional canines in all areas of an airport deemed appropriate by TSA before deploying more passenger screening canine teams to help (a) determine whether PSCs are effective at screening passengers, and expenditures for PSC training are warranted and (b) inform decisions about the type of canine teams to deploy and their optimal locations in airports.  TSA concurred with the recommendation but did not fully address the recommendation.  Specifically, in 2014, TSA reported that it had assessed PSC teams deployed to 27 airports, cumulating in a total of 1,048 tests.  On the basis of these tests, TSA determined that PSC teams are effective and should be deployed at the checkpoint queue.  However, when contacted in December 2014, officials reported that they did no plan to expand or complete testing to compare the effectiveness [of] PSCs with the effectiveness of conventional canine teams as we recommended, citing concerns about potential liability in using conventional canines that have not been evaluated for their suitability for screening passengers in an unfamiliar passenger screening environment and the related risks to the program.  We disagreed and pointed out that conventional canines paired with handlers already work in proximity with passengers since they patrol airport terminals, including ticket counters and curbside areas.  Given that TSA does not plan on taking further action on this program, we closed the recommendation as not implemented.  However, we continue to believe that the recommendation has merit and should be fully implemented."  

Recently I flew from Tampa to Newark and noticed that at the beginning of the checkpoint there was a sign indicating that dogs might be present as I went through security area (I have become pre-Check so it isn't as much of a headache as it used to be--I can keep my shoes on).  We saw TSA dogs outside the terminal and a few roaming the areas near the gates, but did not see any in the checkpoint area despite the sign.  

A GAO report on federal acquisitions (GAO-16-209, January 7, 2016), contains the following statement:

"TSA operates a canine program that uses other transaction agreements to fund local and state participants who provide law enforcement officers to serve as dog handlers at airports, mass transit systems, and maritime and other facilities. Under these agreements, TSA provides the dogs and training for the handlers, among other things. TSA reimburses airports a flat amount per dog handler per year for qualified expenses, including payroll expenses for dog handlers, as well as dog-related costs, such as dog food and veterinary costs. As of the October 2014, there were 78 airports participating in the canine program, including 28 large airports and some smaller, regional airports, and 23 mass transit systems, such as the Metrorail in Washington, D.C."

This general statement cannot be directly compared with data as to the number of canine teams deployed.  It must be hoped that the GAO will soon conduct another overall assessment of TSA canine programs. 

On June 24, 2014, GAO released a follow-up report: Explosives Detection Canines: TSA Has Taken Steps to Analyze Canine Team Data and Assess the Effectiveness of Passenger Screening Canines.  GAO-14-695T.  This report updates certain items in the January 2013 report (GAO-13-239), a primary source for the original blog below. Also on June 24, 2014, the Subcommittee on Transportation Security held hearings on using canines to detect explosives and mitigate threats, receiving testimony from several TSA officials as well as from Jenny Grover, Acting Director, Homeland Security and Justice, in the GAO.  Witness statements and Rep. Richard Hudson's interrogation of witnesses are posted on the website of the Committee on Homeland Security. If the Subcommittee issues a report, we will either further update this blog or write a new one.  Update notes from the GAO's June 2014 report are in red below. 

Recent reports by the Government Accountability Office, the House Transportation Security Subcommittee, and the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security have highlighted a number of problems with the canine programs of the Transportation Security Administration.  Although deficiencies in TSA programs for mass transportation and maritime environments are noted in some of the reports, the greatest concern comes from the failure to provide optimal safety to commercial airlines, both symbolically because of 9/11 and practically because of the continued efforts of Al Qaeda to put suicide bombers aboard flights.    

The deficiencies that are found in TSA’s canine programs are not generally due to a lack of funding.  TSA funding for the National Canine Program increased from $52 million in fiscal 2010 to $101 million in 2012.  Nevertheless, a staff report issued by the House Transportation Security Subcommittee (September 2012) indicates Congressional frustration with TSA’s pace of developing canine resources:

“The number of canine teams deployed to screen air passengers is on the rise, with many law enforcement and security professionals recognizing the broad applicability of this vital resource in the airport environment. Unfortunately, it would take many years at TSA’s current pace just to cover Category X airports with a minimum number of these teams, much less surface modes of transportation.”

Update Note:  GAO-14-695T states:  

"Of amounts appropriated in fiscal year 2014, TSA received a total of approximately $126.3 million for its canine program. This amount includes an additional $1.25 million above TSA’s fiscal year 2014 budget request to support not fewer than 10 more canine teams for the air cargo and aviation regulation environments. In its fiscal year 2015 budget request, TSA is requesting approximately $127.4 million, a $1 million increase."

A footnote adds:

"In its fiscal year 201 budget request, TSA proposes to consolidate all canine assets, including PSC teams and mass transit teams, within its Aviation Regulation and Other Enforcement account to allow TSA maximum flexibility to utilize the teams in any transportation environment as needed in response to changes in intelligence or capability requirements." 

Canine Programs Currently Operated by TSA

As of September 2012, the National Canine Program (NCP) of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had deployed 762 canine teams of the 921 which it is able to fund, meaning that it has yet to deploy another 159 teams.  Handlers are either law enforcement officers or transportation security inspectors (TSIs), the latter being employees of TSA.  The first four categories involve canines deployed with law enforcement officers, while the last three involve canines deployed with TSIs.  Although the number of law enforcement teams certified has remained fairly constant, TSI certification rates have increased substantially since 2008 when such teams were initially deployed.  The various types of TSA teams and their numbers are provided in the following table assembled by the GAO in the following table.  Numbers in red are taken from an GAO update report issued June 2014 (GAO-14-695T).

Type of Canine Team
Number of Teams for Which Funding is Available
Roles and Responsibilities
TSA Start-up Cost/Team
TSA Annual Cost/Team
491 (511)
Patrol airport terminals, including ticket counters, curbside areas, and secured areas; respond to calls to search unattended items, such as vehicles and baggage; screen air cargo; and serve as general deterrents to would-be terrorists or criminals
Mass Transit
111  (131)
Patrol mass transit terminals; search platforms, railcars, and buses; respond to calls to search unattended items, such as baggage; and serve as general deterrents to would-be terrorists or criminals
6 (6)
Conduct similar activities as mass transit teams at ferry terminals
27 (27)
Patrol and search transportation modes in their geographic area (e.g., aviation, mass transit, and maritime), and screen air cargo
Air Cargo (TSI)
120 (120)
Primarily screen air cargo
TSI Multimodal
46 (46)
Patrol and search transportation modes in their geographic area (e.g., aviation, mass transit, or maritime), and screen air cargo
Passenger Screening (TSI)
120 (144

[to be at 30 airports by end of 2013]
Search for explosives odor on passengers in airport terminals [unless reassigned to cargo or training, as discussed below]
921 (985)


Update Note:  GAO-14-695T states that "NEDCTP has deployed 802 of 985 canine teams for which it is able to fund across the transportation system." 

Start-up costs involve training the dog and its handler, while annual costs for law enforcement teams include a stipend that is provided to the handler’s state or local agency.  The stipend is intended to cover various expenses, including part or all of the handler’s salary and food and veterinary care for the dog. Any costs greater than the amount of the stipend are the responsibility of the state or local agency. In many cases, state and local law enforcement is able to hire the handler without supplementing the salary, which as the table indicates, means that federally employed handlers earn substantially more than state and local handlers.  This disparity may not be equitable, given that many of the state and local handlers often have more experience. Expenses for TSA employees also include costs of their service vehicles, cell phones, etc.

Update Note:  GAO-14-695T states that conventional canine handlers "attend a 10-week training course, and PSC handlers attend a 12-week training course."  Also, the "majority of canine teams are trained by TSA’s CTES. However, according to TSA officials, because of resource constraints, TSA contracted with Strijder Group K9, which subcontracted to Auburn University’s Canine Detection Training Center to train some of the PSC teams."  

The stipends for aviation and multimodal teams are greater than those for other law enforcement teams in part because teams assigned to these responsibilities are required to spend 25% of their time screening air cargo under a cooperative agreement with TSA. 

TSA Team Screening Passengers (GAO-13-239)
The Association of Independent Aviation Security Professionals, in a paper, Using Dogs/K9 to Screen for Explosives at the Passenger Screening Checkpoint Is Ineffective, Impractical and Unrealistic, issued July 2011, estimated the annual dog handler’s salary at about $100,000 per year, with about the same salary for a full-time trainer. This, however, appears to have been based on handlers in the DC metropolitan area.  A salary of $100,000 rivals the pay scale for civilian handlers working in Middle Eastern war zones, and exceeds that of handlers assigned to protecting critical infrastructure sites in the U.S., such as IRS facilities, as well as most pay scales of handlers in state and local law enforcement.     

Annual costs for TSI canine teams include, besides the full salaries and benefits of the handlers, the costs of service vehicles, cell phones, and other equipment.  There are also additional training costs for TSI teams, including providing decoys, persons pretending to be passengers who walk around the airport with explosive training aids (i.e., items containing explosive scents).

Certifications and Annual Evaluations Not Sufficiently Objective

Dogs are certified to begin working and then annually re-evaluated.  The certification tests are designed to simulate environments in which they will actually work.  The GAO report states:

“Canine teams must find a certain percentage of the explosive training aids to pass their annual evaluation. In addition, a specified number of nonproductive responses (NPR)—when a canine responds to a location where no explosives odor is present—are allowed to pass an evaluation and maintain certification. After passing the conventional evaluation, PSC [passenger screening canine] teams are required to undergo an additional annual evaluation that includes detecting explosives on a person, or being carried by a person. PSC teams are tested in different locations within the sterile area of an airport. A certain number of persons must be detected, and a specified number of NPRs are allowed for PSC certification.”  

The italicized language indicates that a dog can make false alerts and still be certified.  The sterile area of an airport is defined as the portion of an airport under the airport’s security program that provides passengers access to boarding aircraft and to which the access is generally controlled through the screening of persons, luggage, or cargo—i.e., what most of us call “past security.”  

Some handlers complained to the GAO that not all evaluators score responses in certification tests the same way:

“[S]ome canine handlers stated that while one evaluator may consider a canine sitting a few feet away from the explosive training aid a 'fringe' response and count it positively, another evaluator would consider the same scenario a nonproductive response (NPR).”

Some evaluators mandate specific distances to declare an alert, but apparently there is some latitude in the TSA testing environment.  As a result of these types of complaints, evaluators of teams operating in airport environments are now being themselves evaluated annually.  Of course, under the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the evaluation of the evaluators will not necessarily determine future behavior where evaluators know they are not being watched.  It might be best to develop test environments where canine teams are videotaped and videotapes are viewed by several observers who independently score the results.  This is, of course, standard in canine research environments. 

Covert Tests of Canine Teams Discontinued in 2012

TSA collects data on covert tests conducted by field canine coordinators that assess canine teams’ operational effectiveness in detecting and responding to possible explosives.  These are called “short notice assessments.”  The GAO criticizes TSA for not analyzing results beyond pass/fail rates, and for suspending these covert tests in May 2012 because of staffing shortages.  TSA has not attempted to determine if certain types of explosives are not being detected, or if certain conditions are likely to result in teams being ineffective.  

Update Note: GAO-14-695T states that TSA "reinstated short notice assessment in July 2013." 

The GAO was informed by TSA that it is in the process of hiring new field canine coordinators and expects to have them deployed in early 2013, at which time covert tests will be resumed. 

In June 2012, the Science and Technology Directorate in DHS and TSA officials began conducting operational assessments to demonstrate the effectiveness of passenger screening canine (PSC) teams, which is continuing in 2013.  The initial assessment was conducted at an airport with PSC teams trained at Auburn University, but similar assessments will be conducted at airports using dogs trained at Lackland. It will be interesting to see if any comparisons of the effectiveness of trained canines from these two sources are made public. Auburn has been monetizing its canine research for some time so coming in first could have commercial value. 

Update Note:  GAO-14-695T states that "TSA does not plan to conduct a comparison of PSC teams with conventional canine teams as GAO recommended."  The GAO report does say, however, that TSA is deploying newly trained PSC teams to the highest-risk airports. As to why a comparison is not being made, the 2014 report elaborates:

"According to TSA, the agency does not plan to include conventional canine teams in PSC assessments because conventional canines have not been through the process used with PSC canines to assess their temperament and behavior when working in proximity to people. While we recognize TSA’s position that half of deployed conventional canines are of a breed not accepted for use in the PSC program, other conventional canines are suitable breeds, and have been paired with LEO aviation handlers working in proximity with people since they patrol airport terminals, including ticket counters and curbside areas. We continue to believe that TSA should conduct an assessment to determine whether conventional canines are as effective detecting explosives odor on passengers when compared with PSC teams working in the checkpoint queue. As we reported, since PSC teams are trained in both conventional and passenger screening methods, TSA could decide to convert existing PSC teams to conventional canine teams, thereby limiting the additional resource investments associated with training and maintaining PSC teams."

Highest Risk Terminals Decline TSA Passenger Screening Teams

Perhaps the most disturbing finding in the GAO report is that passenger screening canine (PSC) teams are not deployed to seven of the highest-risk airport terminals and concourses.  The airports were not identified, though news reports have indicated that Orlando has rejected deployment of TSA screening teams.  (According to The New York Times, 16 airports have elected, under an opt-out program established by 49 U.S.C. 44920, to use private security, rather than TSA employees, though supervision is still under the TSA.) According to written testimony of TSA Administrator John Pistole, PSC teams will be working at 30 airports by the end of 2013. 

Allowing airport operators to reject passenger screening teams is unfortunate as that dogs provide significant backup to fixed security points where primary screening takes place.  Bomb dogs and their handlers are mobile and can roam through parking, ticketing, baggage claim, security, seating, restaurant, retail, and gate areas where none of the other screening technologies are employed.  The major reason for airport opposition to passenger screening is explained by the GAO as follows: 

“TSA officials stated that PSC teams were not deployed to the highest-risk terminals and concourses for various reasons, including concerns from an airport law enforcement association about TSA’s decision to deploy PSC teams with civilian TSI [transportation security inspector] handlers and the appropriateness of TSA’s response resolution protocols. These protocols require the canine handler to be accompanied by two additional personnel that may, but not always, include a law enforcement officer. According to representatives from an airport law enforcement association, these protocols are not appropriate for a suicide bombing attempt requiring an immediate law enforcement response.”

Because TSIs are not law enforcement officers, but rather civilian employees of TSA, their ability to detain subjects who are suspected of carrying explosives is limited (though private citizens can generally act to stop a felony that is progress).  Hence, airport operators create response protocols that require that civilian TSA handlers be near law enforcement personnel.  These protocols can be difficult to implement if cooperation with local law enforcement agencies is not optimal. 

Local Law Enforcement Support of Screening Teams

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority guide for police officers at Washington DC airports states that officers assigned to such duties “follow the PSC team from a distance that enables them to observe the operation.”  By such shadowing, the police “can provide immediate response and communication as they are already on the scene and may directly observe the situation transpire.” If a subject is cooperative, the police may not need to intervene.  If a subject remains uncooperative, the mere arrival of the police may make the subject cooperative.  Dealing with an uncooperative subject can be complex:

“If the subject fails to obey police direction, objectively reasonable force may be used to detain the individual if there is reasonable suspicion justifying an investigatory detention. The positive alert of a TSA PSC canine may be considered reasonable suspicion of the possible presence of explosive material transported by an individual.”

A key concern is whether the dog has alerted to an odor on the individual or one on luggage or another item he is carrying or moving. “If the canine alerts on an individual, officers should attempt to keep the subject in a posture of disadvantage, with hands visible, while determining necessary resolution measures.”  In addition, “officers should restrict the subject from any movements they feel could further endanger themselves or others.”  As to restricting the subject’s movement, the guide states:

“[I]f a suspicious device is located on the front torso of a subject, officers might avoid restraining the individual in a prone position to avert the device from contacting against the floor. Furthermore, it may also be necessary to secure the individual to a fixed object in an effort to prevent his/her movement or escape from the area.”

The Authority notes that officers should be aware of other subjects in the area and remember that an IED can be detonated remotely by radio frequency or digital signals from the types of radios used by police to summon assistance. 

The costs of the TSA deployments are not borne by the airports, but the cost of the law enforcement presence to support the canine team often will be.  The fact the salaries of federal canine handlers are generally higher—sometimes much higher—than local law enforcement salaries presents a personnel problem for airport operators, so even if the airport wants TSI canine teams, it may find that coordination of those teams with law enforcement officers is a significant management headache. (Conflicts between different groups of canine handlers operating at the same airport have sometimes risen to the level where it must be questioned whether passenger safety may have been compromised, as indicated by a California appellate court decision regarding rival canine teams at the Los Angeles International Airport.)

Passenger Screening Canines Only Deployed in “Sterile Areas”

TSA generally deploys passenger screening canines only to sterile areas, that is, areas where passengers have already been screened.  Some airport personnel have suggested that PSC teams might be more effectively deployed in parking garages and lots, curbside areas, and lobbies.  They note that in these areas, the dog might detect explosives on a suicide bomber before he ever entered the airport structure.  This is a good argument, and should be heeded. (A trial program being tested in Tampa and Indianapolis does involve passenger screening before ticketing of a small portion of passengers arriving at these airports. In testimony in May 2013, GAO-13-469T, Stephen M. Lord, GAO Director of Forensic Audits and Investigative Services stated that TSA continues to test the use of dogs in public (non-sterile) areas of airports.) 

Other Logistical Problems for Airports

The Association of Independent Aviation Security Professionals, in a report issued in July 2011, noted certain logistical problems that may be particularly difficult for airports with limited space:

“[D]ogs need additional infrastructure to feed and to answer the call of nature.  Airports are not a friendly place for such purposes, especially considering that 200 dogs would require a lot of food and produce a lot of dog waste to clean up each day, which would have to be disposed of accordingly.  Dogs need to be kenneled when not in use, with added costs for transport, housing and food and require medical care.”
Also, some recreational and storage areas may have to be built:

“If a dog is asked to find an IED [improvised explosive device], works for hours and finds nothing, the handler then must take the dog out and give it a chance to find the item.  Dogs are trained in two different ways—they are rewarded with food or with play when they succeed.  That means the airport has to keep at least one, but usually several, samples of each explosive.  Since the wide range and small quantities of concern are difficult to store and potentially dangerous, they must be stored in secure bunkers or lockers.  To avoid cross contamination of vapors, as well as scent-saturation of dogs, which would render the samples and the dogs useless, each explosive must be stored well removed and in its own vapor-tight container to avoid all the other samples absorbing the odor of the nearest explosive with the highest vapor pressure, or worse, several competing contaminants.”

Such requests from TSA or law enforcement may also explain part of the resistance of some airport operators to permitting passenger screening handlers to work in their facilities. 

Passenger Screening Teams Reassigned to Cargo Screening at Some Airports

The failure to deploy canine teams where they would be most useful has economic consequences, as the GAO notes:
Screening Air Cargo (GAO-13-239)
“TSA’s decision to deploy PSC teams only to airports where they would be willingly accepted by stakeholders has resulted in PSC teams not being deployed to the highest-risk airport terminals and concourses on its high-risk list. Given that PSC teams cost $164,000 annually per team, TSA is not using the teams in the most cost-effective manner to enhance security if it is limited to deploying them at lower-risk airports and concourses. Moreover, PSC teams at the two high-risk airports we visited are not being used for passenger screening because TSA and the local law enforcement agencies have not reached agreement on the PSC response resolution protocols. Thus, rather than being utilized for their intended primary purpose—passenger screening—PSC teams are being used to screen air cargo or conduct training.”

TSA Not Using Its Canine Website System Effectively

TSA collects canine program data on its Canine Website System (CWS), a central management database, which records the amount of time handlers spend on proficiency training as well as the time canine teams screen for explosives and perform other functions.  Information on swab samples was also often incorrectly entered into the system, according to the GAO.  The Canine Website System did not, as of September 2012, include passenger screening data, though TSA officials informed the GAO that this information would be included by September 2013.  

Update Note:  GAO-14-695T states: 

"In April 2013, TSA reminded canine handlers of the requirement to submit swab samples of their canines’ final responses, and reported that the number of samples submitted that same month, increased by 450 percent, when compared with sample submissions in April 2012. CEU [NEDCTP's Canine Explosives Unit] is producing reports on the results of its analysis of the swab samples for the presence of explosives odor."

The bizarre jump in samples submitted no doubt reflects the fact that many handlers are reluctant to submit samples when only a limited number of alerts result in a finding of target odors in the samples. This occurs for several reasons, including the fact that a target odor may be present but not precisely on the location swabbed.  Swabbing and testing samples thus can create a poor record for the dog, and the procedure adds significantly to the cost of deployment due to the costs of collecting, handling, packaging, shipping, receiving, processing, and logging of the sample  It will be curious to see whether these factors are taken into account in determining the reliability of dogs and the effectiveness of programs.  

Disturbingly, TSA admitted that some possible uses of the data that the GAO brought to TSA’s attention had never occurred to the agency.  This suggests that there may be management weaknesses inside of TSA’s IT operations. 

Private Contractors Could Expand Canine Screening of Cargo

Statutes and regulations require cargo screening, but allow it to be accomplished by an explosives detection system or one or more of the following: “(1) A bag-match program that ensures that no checked baggage is placed aboard an aircraft unless the passenger who checked the baggage is aboard the aircraft; (2) Manual search; (3) Search by canine explosives detection units in combination with other means; (4) Other means of technology approved by the Under Secretary [of Transportation for Security].”  (49 U.S.C. 44901(e), emphasis added)  Regulations also mention that cargo can be screened by “TSA-approved x-ray systems, explosives detection systems, explosives trace detection, explosive detection canine teams certified by TSA, or a physical search together with manifest verification, or other method approved by TSA.” (49 CFR 1544.205 (g)(2) (cargo); 49 CFR 1546.205(g)(2) (cargo, foreign air carriers)).  Notice that the regulations specify that TSA certify the teams, but do not specify that they be handled by TSA employees, or come from any particular source. 

From January to August 2011, TSA conducted a pilot program using private companies to screen air cargo.  (Letter of John S. Pistole, Adminstrator, TSA, to Mike Rogers, Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation Security, November 15, 2012) TSA found a number of issues that would have to be addressed, and apparently made little progress after the pilot study was concluded. In September 2012, the majority staff report of the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security stated:

“[S]ubstantial delays are leading to a missed opportunity to expand canine resources, create private sector jobs and leverage the private sector toward better air cargo security. TSA needs to finalize its efforts to develop a certification program for private companies to enable them to use their own canines, certified to TSA standards, to meet federal air cargo screening mandates. Leveraging private sector resources will introduce much-needed additional canines into the cargo screening system.”

The Aviation Security Advisory Committee noted, in a meeting held in September 2012 that “TSA operated dogs” are “used primarily for secondary, not initial, screening of air cargo and are currently limited to operations in airport facilities in approximately 20 cities.” 

The Advisory Committee recommended that “private canines should be available in both the passenger and all-cargo environments and, where appropriate, should be used for primary, as well as secondary, screening.  By expanding the available canine pool, and using this expanded pool for primary, as well as secondary, screening, specific discrete problem areas can better be addressed.” Thus, dogs “can and should be used … where physical or equipment-assisted screening methods are not available, not optimally-effective or are cost-prohibitive.” (In hearings held on June 2 and July 12, 2011, the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security heard various witnesses recommend that TSA "should provide access to their TSA-owned EDC training center for testing and certification of private sector dogs.")

Dogs may sometimes be the optimal screening method according to the Committee:

“In some limited circumstances, canines may be more appropriate than technology to screen specific commodities. For example, the application and introduction of expensive, limited use, technologies to screen limited and market-specific complex commodities (for example, liquids in barrels) is neither cost effective for industry nor an efficient use of limited research resources for the TSA. TSA should therefore establish a process whereby companies can request and receive authority to have TSA canines perform this function.”

This is not how TSA has always thought, so it may take some time for these recommendations to work through the agency’s hierarchy.  

In a memo issued in September 2014 (OIG-14-142), the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security stated: 

"We [the Inspector General's staff] identified vulnerabilities ... caused by human and technology-based failures.  We also determined that TSA does not have a process in place to assess or identify the cause for equipment-based test failures or the capability to independently assess whether deployed explosive detection systems are operating at the correct detection standards.  The compilation of the number of tests conducted, the names of  airports tested, and test results are classified, or designated as Sensitive Security Information.  According to TSA, the component [presumably some subdivision of TSA] spent $540 million for checke baggage screening equipment and $11 million for training since 2009.  Despite that investment, TSA has not improved checked baggage screening since our last report in 2009." 


TSA apparently prefers to hire its own handlers when it has the funding to do so, at least at airports. By paying them more than state and local handlers, however, it may be getting less bang for its buck than it could and it may also be creating frictions between its own TSI handlers and law enforcement support personnel. The agency is right to want to check on handler proficiency annually, but should move towards more objective testing environments where evaluations can be double-blinded and conducted and reviewed objectively.  Covert tests should be a standard procedure. 

Private contractors and alternative technologies should be evaluated for cargo and passenger screening.  Although recent reports have not focused on overseas screening of air cargo coming into the U.S. on commercial flights, this continues to be an area of concern, particularly in some countries where a cultural disdain for dogs makes establishing canine programs difficult. 

Most importantly, high risk airports should not be able to reject passenger screening teams, but such teams should be regularly deployed “before security.” (John Pistole, in written testimony to the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security, March 14, 2013, indicate that teams are increasingly being deployed before security.  He did not provide specific statistics on this, however.  Airport based law enforcement personnel should not attempt to establish overly complex protocols to respond to situations encountered by TSA civilian canine handlers. Nevertheless, TSA personnel should be sensitive of the need to cooperate with state and local law enforcement officers assigned to airport duties. 

This blog was written by John Ensminger and L.E. Papet. The authors thank Dennis Civiello for comments and suggestions. 

  1. Association of Independent Aviation Security Professionals, Using Dogs/K9 to Screen for Explosives at the Passenger Screening Checkpoint is Ineffective, Impractical and Unrealistic (July 26, 2011).
  2. Aviation Security Advisory Committee.  Meeting Summary (September 18, 2012).
  3. Department of Homeland Security. Privacy Impact Assessment for the Canine Website System (January 13, 2012).
  4. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General. Efficiency and Effectiveness of TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Program Within Rail and Mass Transit Systems (August 15, 2012).
  5. Government Accountability Office.  Aviation Security: TSA’s Revised Cost Comparison Provides a More Reasonable Basis for Comparing the Costs of Private-Sector and TSA Screeners. GAO-11-375R  (March 4, 2011) (raising issues about cost comparisons regarding TSA vs. private screening costs at airports).
  6. Government Accountability Office.  Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made and Work Remaining in Implementing Homeland Security Missions 10 Years after 9/11.  GAO-11-881 (March 2011) (stating that "TSA also reported a new approach for the Transit Security Grant Program, which focuses on resources, on the highest risk 'shovel ready' transit infrastructure projects, while prioritizing operational deterrence activities such as training and canine teams.").
  7. Government Accountability Office. DHS and TSA Continue to Face Challenges Developing and Acquiring Screening Technologies.   GAO-13-469T (May 8, 2013) (testimony of Stephen M. Lord, GAO Director of Forensic Audits and Investigative Services, stating: "As of April 2013, TSA concluded testing with DHS S&T of passenger screening canine teams in the sterile areas of airports, and TSA is still in the process of conducting its own testing of the teams in the sterile and public areas of the airports."). 
  8. Government Accountability Office.  Federal Acquisitions: Use of "Other Transaction' Agreements Limited and Mostly for Research and Development ActivitiesGAO-16-209 (January 7, 2016).  
  9. Government Accountability Office.  TSA Explosives Detection Canine Program: Actions Needed to Analyze Data and Ensure Canine Teams Are Effectively Utilized.  GAO-13-239 (January 31, 2013).
  10. House of Representatives, Report 112-492, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, 2013 (May 23, 2012).
  11. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Office of Public Safety.  General Order 4-411, Passenger Screening Canine Alert Procedures (July 25, 2012).
  12. Pistole, John, Written Testimony before Transportation Security Subcommittee, March 14, 2013. 
  13. Subcommittee on Transportation Security, Committee on Homeland Security, Majority Staff Report. Rebuilding TSA into a Smarter, Leaner Organization (September 2012).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Army Issues Formal Service Dog Policy, Keeps Ban on Dogs for PTSD

Update: The following should be read in conjunction with a blog on the VA's final rules access rules issued in August 2015.   Secretary McHugh's reference to the Surgeon General's responsibility in the event of a change of VA rules should mean that the Army's policy is now under review. The Army's policy, however, was not developed through a formal regulatory process, unlike the VA's rules, so there is no clear time frame on when Secretary McHugh, the Surgeon General, or any post commander will take appropriate action.      

Army Directive 2013-01 (Guidance on the Acquisition and Use of Service Dogs by Soldiers), signed by John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army, “sets forth policies and procedures for the acquisition and use of service dogs by wounded, ill and injured Soldiers with disabilities for whom a service dog is clinically indicated.” The Directive applies to all Soldiers “regardless of component or duty status.”

The Directive defines a service dog as “a dog individually trained to do work or perform specific tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” Thus, the Army uses the general language of the Department of Justice in that agency’s implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Unfortunately, that is the limit the Army is willing to go in accepting DOJ’s approach. Rather, the Army explicitly follows the VA’s lead as to dogs that might help individuals with PTSD or other psychological conditions:

“Currently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not recognize service dogs for behavioral health conditions, and therefore psychological service dogs are not considered service dogs for the purposes of this directive.”

I had held out some hope that the Army might diverge from the VA on this issue because of some language in a letter that Secretary McHugh wrote to a trainer working with Wounded Warriors at Fort Bliss, Debbie Kandoll, which I discussed in a blog last December. It turns out I was wrong to have any hope.

The only dog that helps with PTSD which should be approved by the Army (or the VA) would be one that also has functions with regard to a physical disability. Thus, a Soldier with mobility impairments, who could use a dog that helps with balance, picking up dropped objects and similar physical disability-related functions, ought to be able to have a dog that also has functions related to a mental condition. Dogs can be dual-trained for several disabilities, and it ought not to be a problem for the Army that a service dog provides maximum effect for a Soldier.

Secretary McHugh goes on to state that if the VA policy changes, the “Surgeon General will review and propose amendments to this directive for my approval.” Thus, if Congress or anyone else can get the VA to listen to reason, there might be some hope.

Service Dogs in Training

The senior commander of a military installation is given the authority to admit trainers with service dogs in training “provided that the training is occurring under the auspices of a source accredited by a VA-recognized organization.” This means that the trainer must be affiliated with a nonprofit training organization holding full membership in either the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) or Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

McHugh does allow for the possibility that Soldiers may be involved in training service dogs:

“In some cases, the training of service dogs occurs as part of a medically supervised program wherein the trainer benefits from the act of training dogs for service to other individuals. The use of such medically supervised training programs and the granting of access rights to medical treatment facilities to such dogs in training are at the discretion of the commander of the applicable medical treatment facility. A Soldier is not authorized to train his/her own service dog.”

Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act

The wording in the preceding paragraph may be carefully crafted to avoid a potential conflict with Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Representative Michael Michaud (D-Me), who have introduced a bill (H.R. 183, the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act) to require the VA “to carry out a pilot program for the purpose of assessing the effectiveness of addressing post-deployment mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms through a therapeutic medium of training service dogs for veterans with disabilities.”

Although designed to help veterans with PTSD, the proposed legislation does not mandate the training of service dogs for PTSD. Given the VA’s policy, this might actually be impossible, at least in VA facilities. If the legislation gains traction (co-sponsors are slowly coming aboard), it must be hoped that the VA will reconsider its restrictive policy. That might very well result in the Army changing its policy, since this policy is explicitly based on the VA’s.

Facilities Access of Recognized Service Dogs

Secretary McHugh provides broad access for such service animals as his policy is willing to recognize:

“Service dogs will be given access to those Army facilities and spaces generally open to the public, including (but not limited to) installations, hospitals, treatment facilities, recreational facilities, barracks and other structures, as long as such access does not compromise public health (including infection control standards), safety, readiness, mission accomplishment, and good order and discipline.”

As to dogs not obtained from IGDF or ADI organizations, the Directive states that “Soldiers should be aware that dogs obtained from sources not accredited by VA-recognized organizations may not qualify as service dogs and may be ineligible for VA benefits.” One wonders how any exception could be possible. The Directive explicitly states that emotional support animals, therapy animals, and activity animals “fall outside the scope of this policy.”

The Directive states that “Soldiers for whom a service dog is recommended are not deployable.” Notice that this means that even if a Soldier has not received a service dog, and might be years from getting one, he or she is not deployable once a recommendation is made.

Requesting a Service Dog

Soldiers may request service dogs from their primary care managers. The primary care manager is then to assemble a multidisciplinary team to evaluate the request. The team is to include:

• Soldier’s primary care manager
• Command representative (an officer or senior noncommissioned officer) designated by the Soldier’s unit commander
• If a Soldier is assigned to an installation, an installation representative designated by the garrison commander
• Such other individuals designate by the primary care manager as necessary to make an informed decision, including possible a veterinarian or a unit medical provider.

The team will consider whether a service dog is appropriate for the Soldier and if it could live with him or her in barracks or family housing. The form to be used for a memorandum of a recommendation is attached to the Directive and reproduced here.

If the multidisciplinary team does not reach a consensus, the primary care manager “will refer the team’s recommendation, together with its rationale or viewpoints, to the Deputy Commander for Clinical Services (DCCS) of the servicing military treatment facility for review.”

The final decision is not made by the multidisciplinary team or the Deputy Commander for Clinical Services. Rather, the recommendation is sent up “through command channels to the first colonel or GS-15 in the Soldier’s chain of command for decision.” Each commander in the chain of command is to document his or her recommendation as to whether the Soldier should receive a service dog.

If the first colonel/GS-15 approves the request for a service dog, the decision is final. The officer is to specify any limitations on the use of the service dog. If the officer disapproves, he or she must provide a written rationale for the decision.

Soldiers must obtain their own service dogs, but the Directive notes that “Army approval is no guarantee that a VA-recognized source will provide a service dog.” This, of course, presents a problem at a number of Army posts, which are often not near to service dog training organizations that are full members of IGDF or ADI.

Dogs Acquired before Policy’s Effective Date

The Directive allows for the possibility that Soldiers may have obtained service dogs, even psychological service dogs, before the policy was made final. A Soldier “may keep the animal provided he/she complies” with general requirements for Soldiers having service dogs, but the animal may not remain categorized as a service animal:

“Commanders, in consultation with the Soldier's current medical provider, may refer such cases to the multidisciplinary team to evaluate whether a Soldier's continued or ongoing possession of a dog remains clinically indicated. If not, the Soldier may be allowed to retain the animal as a pet. Note: solely for the purposes of reviewing cases involving a previously acquired, clinically indicated (and documented) psychological service dog, commanders and the multidisciplinary team will not apply the VA accreditation requirements of this policy in making its recommendation.”

Thus, although a pre-existing psychiatric service dog may be briefly grandfathered under the policy, Secretary McHugh has provided a procedure for removing it from service dog categorization and related benefits and access provisions.

Army Surgeon General to Provide Further Guidance

Further guidelines will be issued by the Army Surgeon General within nine months, who is to create a registry of Soldiers with service dogs, together with the diagnosis of each Soldier with a dog. Presumably, these diagnoses will not be solely psychological, since the service animals that will be approved have to be for physical disabilities. The Soldier’s “utilization rate” for a dog will be assessed periodically.


The civilian implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act has seldom involved this kind of resistance, and the Departments of Justice, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development long ago accepted the possibility that people have the right to use trained dogs for psychological benefits. There is no reason why this approach should not be accepted wholeheartedly by the Veterans Administration, which is supposed to be helping veterans reintegrate and function as full members of society. There is also no reason why the Army could not do so as well, given its decision that Soldiers with service dogs are not deployable, meaning they will mostly be employed on posts, often at desk jobs. (Animals can easily be integrated into a broad range of workplace environments, as discussed in Service and Therapy Dogs in American Society, Chapter 11: Taking Service and Support Dogs to Work.)

The Army’s continued resistance to service dogs for Soldiers with PTSD and other psychological traumas and conditions is already a source of sadness on many posts, and has sparked arguments that the Army is resisting an approach that may reduce suicides. It is to be hoped that Congress will listen to these cries for help, since it is evident that the Army command will not.

An email can be sent to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on the Committee's website.  As the Committee considers the proposed Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act, it should also consider the appropriateness of the VA/Army policies on service dogs.

Thanks to Leigh Anne Novak, Bart Sherwood, Debbie Kandoll, and Frances Breitkopf for comments.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Canine Domestication May Have Begun 30,000 or More Years Ago

Note: This blog should be read in conjunction with a later blog, Of Bonobos and Bottlenecks, that updates some of this research. 

Canine domestication is only certain after the Last Glacial Maximum, though the increasing evidence of variant wolves living close to settlements of Eurasian hunter-gatherers in the Upper Paleolithic argues that it may have already begun 30,000 or more years ago.  This proximity of species may have led to the sort of self-domestication described by the Coppingers (2001), though the size of the game may suggest that the wolves were initially more determined to get close to the hunt than the camp.

Wolf (Dog?) in Font-de-Gaume Cave, Magdalenian Culture (painting by Breuil, 1910)
More data will be necessary to say for sure that the morphological changes of wolves living near human habitations in the Aurignacian, as described by Germonpre (2009, 2012, and 2013), continued until there were dogs.  Even if continuity can be established, there very likely was a significant bottleneck before or in the Last Glacial Maximum, and perhaps migration of humans and canids out of areas where glaciation reduced or eliminated hunting opportunities.  These migrations may explain the first bifurcations of an initially domesticated wolf population. Alternatively, the initial domestication may have remained incomplete and disappeared during the Last Glacial Maximum (Ovodov et al. 2011).

The conservative and still more accepted position is that domestication began in increasingly sedentary human settlements after the Last Glacial Maximum, perhaps in East Asia about 16,000 years ago as argued by Savolainen et al. (2002), though it could also have occurred in Southeast Asia (Brown et al. 2011), the Middle East (vonHoldt et al. 2010), or even Europe (Verginelli et al. 2005; Wayne and vonHoldt 2012).  It may have begun in several places more or less simultaneously (vonHoldt et al.; Pionnier-Capitan et al. (2011)), and there may have been different functions for dogs in the different cultures where domestication began (Gray et al. 2010; Driscoll and MacDonald (2010)).

Germonpre et al. (2012), conceding that dogs after the Ice Age are smaller than what they call Upper Paleolithic dogs, suggest that once some of the larger game began to disappear, smaller dogs would have become more useful.  They acknowledge that “it is difficult to ascertain at the moment whether the small prehistoric dogs were descending from a European Palaeolithic stock of large dogs, which finds its origin in the Aurignacian, through selection for a smaller body size, or were introduced from elsewhere.”  Thus, though arguing that there was a long period of domestication before the Last Glacial Maximum, they leave open the possibility of subsequent domestication events. 


Eurasian Sites Discussed in Text
Because of the specifically identified locations involved in excavations, and the generally more specific dating, it is easiest to begin with the lines of archeological research before describing the genetics research and then attempting a synthesis.  The table at the end of the blog combines the archeological and genetic evidence into a single timeline.  

The first map shows the locations of most of the sites that will be discussed. 

Kostenki, 40,000 Years Ago 

Mietje Germonpre, Martina Laznickova-Galetova, and Mikhail Sablin, in a paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science in January 2012, compare the associations of wolves with humans over three periods, beginning with the early Upper Paleolithic site at Kostenki on the River Don, dated  between 41,000 and 38,500 years ago.  The most common bones found at the site are those of the broad-toed horse (Equus latipes), but there are also bones of bison, hare, arctic fox, mammoth, and red deer.  Bones of wolves were found.  (Hoffecker et al. 2009)  Holliday et al. (2007) argue for the presence of anatomically modern humans in the area, probably prior to 40,000 years ago.  Neanderthal occupation has not been ruled out.  Germonpre and her colleagues saw this site as a sort of base line, a point where there is no indication of cooperation or domestication, though the two species are close and hunt the same large mammals. 

Goyet Cave, 36,000 Years Ago

A skull found in the Goyet Cave of Belgium was identified by Germonpre et al. (2009) as coming from a Paleolithic dog about 36,000 years ago, putting it in the Aurignacian cultural period. (Radiocarbon dates of c. 32,000 BP were published in Germonpre (2012), resulting in a calibrated age of at least 36,000.)

mtDNA analysis of the skull, and of two other skulls identified as Paleolithic dogs from the Ukraine (at Mezin and Mezhirich, dating from the Epigravettian cultural period) “yielded unique DNA sequences, indicating that the ancient Belgian large canids carried a substantial amount of genetic diversity.” The researchers concluded that the mtDNA analysis indicated that the three dogs “do not form a homogenous genetic group.”  They cite the argument of Lindblad-Toh et al. (2005) that an ancient genetic bottleneck accompanying the domestication of dogs occurred around 27,000 years ago, eliminating much of this early diversity.  (Genetic diversity was also found in fossil canids in Italy by Verginelli et al. (2005), including one canid found at the Palidoro Upper Paleolithic rock shelter in Latium.) 

Nevertheless, all the Paleolithic dogs showed considerable uniformity in skull shape, and this “skull morphology seems to have remained stable” with dogs from that point forward. “[A]ncient dog skulls have shorter and broader snouts, wider palates, and wider braincases than wolf skulls.”  (Germonpre et al. 2012).  “Their skull size suggests that these first dogs were large animals, as large as recent large dog breeds….” Germonpre et al. (2009) hypothesized that “changes in dog morphology compared to wolf morphology appeared rather abruptly, that they were linked to the effects of domestication and that these changes became fixed in the dog population.”  Thus, although there was genetic diversity, changes in skull shape was universal to the domestication process.  (Curiously, the same presence of shorter jaws and wider skulls is found in Belyaev’s artificially domesticated silver foxes.)

Mammoth Tracing, Font-de-Gaume Cave, with Structure Superimposed
The Goyet Cave canid skull was found in a side gallery where there were also remains of mammoth, lynx, and red deer.  The large canids found in the cave preyed primarily on horse and large bovids.  Although the researchers, only “tentatively propose that the domestication of the dog had already begun in the Aurignacian,” they argue that the dogs may have already had significant functions for humans.  “They may have been used for helping with the tracking, hunting or transport of large ‘ice-age’ game, possibly mammoths on the Russian Plain  … or used as pack animals….”  The Russian Plain argument presumably refers to the dogs identified at Mezin and Mezhirich.  Although stated with caution, this rather too easily projects more recent functions into the Aurignacian.  Tracking is certainly likely, but use of the animals for transport seems to posit rather too sophisticated a dog culture for such an early phase in the domestication process. 

As to why genetic studies generally do not place domestication as far back as the Aurignacian, Germonpre et al. state:

“Since dogs were domesticated from gray wolves, ultimately the first dogs would have carried a wolf-like genetic sequence, and hence will be not identifiable genetically as the first dogs. Only after isolated breeding, it is possible that certain genotypes in the Palaeolithic dogs drifted to high frequencies and might therefore be distinguishable from those of the source wolf population. Thus one would only expect to see a differentiation of dogs and wolves after several thousands of years due to the bottleneck caused by selective breeding during early domestication. At the same time certain (e.g. morphological) traits were probably expressed and selected for, or just arose by drift. After this initial phase of domestication a relaxation of constraints occurred. Wolves after the domestication (i.e. dogs) were insulated from the full force of negative selection because humans cared for them, e.g. providing food and physical protection – therefore (slightly) disadvantageous traits could still survive and produce offspring. These individuals in their natural environment would probably not have contributed to the next generation’s gene pool. Later, exponential population growth increased genetic diversity to the high levels that are observed in dogs today.”

Germonpre’s 2009 paper was criticized by Morey (2010), who said that “in the absence of a sound demonstration of the accuracy of their taxonomic inferences, I hold this as a markedly unconvincing case that dog domestication occurred that early….”  Crockford and Kuzmin (2012) quickly jumped on both papers on which Germonpre was the lead author (2009 and 2012) and found serious deficiencies in the conclusions of those studies that Paleolithic dogs were found at the sites.  They argued that “more work needs to be done to understand the biological mechanisms involved in wolf domestication.”  
Altai Mountains, 33,000 Years Ago

Ovodov et al. (2011) describe what they call a “33,000-year-old incipient dog from the Altai Mountains of Siberia.”  (Radocarbon dating placed the animal between 29,950 and 27,850 BP, with calibrated ages of c. 33,500-33,000 BP.) The skull was found in the Razboinichya (Bandit’s) Cave in southern Siberia, which is presently 90 meters long, up to 15 meters high near the entrance and even higher further back. Although charcoal was found, the researchers believe “the chamber was primarily used in antiquity by hyenas as a den” because the remains of at least 137 individual hyenas were found, along with deposits of hyena coprolites (fossilized feces).

The wolf skull measurements are similar to those of Neolithic and later dogs, though the teeth are not crowded as appears in Neolithic dogs but closer in size to wolf teeth.  The researchers concluded that they were looking at an “incipient” dog, rather than an aberrant wolf.  Noting that confirmed dogs do not appear until the Holocene (14,000 to 11,500 years before present), they argued that “the lineage represented by the incipient dog from Razboinichya Cave did not survive the LGM [Last Glacial Maximum, c. 26,500 to 19,000 years before present].”  The researchers also considered a similar animal from the Goyet Cave, to be discussed next, to be an incipient dog whose lineage did not survive. 

Citing archeological research on human occupation of the area in the Altai Mountains where the skull was found, Ovodov et al. state that the humans “appear to have been relatively sedentary hunter-gatherers who stayed in one place for many months at a time.”  Although human occupation continued in the area through the Last Glacial Maximum, this was apparently “without dogs, perhaps because humans in northern Eurasia became somewhat less sedentary. Not until the Ice Age began to wane did the human settlement patterns conducive to domestication of wolves become common again, i.e., year-round sedentism or sedentary hunter-gathering.” 

Russia and Siberia, showing Kostenki and Altai Mountains
Curiously, though this might be seen as the second step in the Paleolithic domestication process described by Germonpre in the following sections of this analysis, Germnonpre herself has placed some doubt on the significance of the Razboinichya Cave canid.  Responding to methodological and other criticisms from two of Ovodov’s co-authors, Susan Crockford and Yaroslav Kuzmin, Germonpre et al. (2013) noted that this canid has “only about 10% chance of actually belonging to the European Palaeolithic group” and that it may have “another origin.”  As indicated on the second map, the Siberian cave is a considerable distance from any of the other early Eurasian sites. 

Ornamentation in the Aurignacian

Germonpre refers to one area of research that may provide evidence for a changing relationship between humans and dogs in the Aurignacian.  Perforated canines from foxes and wolves were used for adornment at the Avdeevo site, dating from about 21,000 years ago, as were other modified bones and imitations of canid bones carved out of mammoth ivory (Gvozdover 1995; Germonpre 2009).  Belgian Aurignacian sites have also yielded wolf (dog?) teeth used as personal ornamentation. Not all cultures of the period used wolf teeth for ornamentation, according to Vanhaeren and d’Errico (2006).  These researchers argued that this distinction indicated the presence of different cultures in the Aurignacian: 

“[A]lmost all the mammal species (fox, wolf, horse, ibex, bovid, bear, lion, hyena) that provided teeth used to manufacture personal ornaments in Germany, Belgium and the southwest of France were also available in southeastern France, Italy, Greece, Mediterranean Spain, and Austria, as demonstrated by the presence of these animals at the Aurignacian sites from these areas.  Yet they were not used as beads.”  See also Cartmill and Smith (2009), noting that using bones and beads for personal ornamentation, but not seashells, may have begun with Neanderthals and could have continued among modern humans who had contact with Neanderthals.

Randall White (2003) disputes the claim as to “regionally distinct configurations of personal ornaments corresponding to geographically and linguistically distinct ethnic units,” saying that such “geographic units are not nearly as clear in the ethnographic record as one would like.”  White does, however, find cultural significance in the choice if which teeth are used for ornamentation:

“The animals whose teeth are worn are not those whose meat is consumed.  Phrased another way, the consumed fauna and the displayed fauna are almost mutually exclusive.  This implies that the animals behind the parts transformed into ornaments are construed in terms that are largely of the collective symbolic imagination.” 

None of the researchers working on personal ornamentation mention any possibility that the wolves whose teeth were used as ornaments may have been among those living close to human encampments.

Predmosti, 27,000 Years Ago

In 1994, Benecke argued that the Predmosti site in the Czech Republic indicated wolf domestication based on tooth crowding in mandibles, suggesting an early stage of domestication.  Germonpre et al. (2012) conducted a detailed analysis of the large canid skulls from this site and concluded that they can be identified as Paleolithic dogs.  The occupations “took place during the warmer episodes of the Pleniglacial that preceded the last glacial maximum,” perhaps between 26,000 and 27,000 years before the present. 

Reindeer in Font-de-Gaume Cave (painting by Breuil, 1910)
The people at the site hunted mammoth, horse, bison, and reindeer.  Curiously, large canids are the second most abundant group, represented by at least 103 individuals.  One complete skeleton of a dog or small wolf was found in the human burial zone, and in another zone of the site, seven or eight complete wolf skeletons were uncovered, but the skulls were broken.  The animals were likely eaten, at least on occasion. Another Gravettian site in the Czech Republic produced a wolf vertebra with cut marks suggesting the animal was dismembered or filleted (Svoboda et al. 2011; Beresford-Jones et al. 2010). 

Germonpre et al. argue that “the domestication that started during the Aurignacian was still in process in the Gravettian.”  They repeat their earlier suggestion for sophisticated functions already existing for the dogs:

“[T]he presence of large dogs at Piedmostí and the Epigravettian mammoth sites suggests that these dogs were useful as beasts of burden for the hauling of meat, bones and tusks from mammoth kill sites and of firewood, and to help with the transport of equipment, limiting the carrying costs of the Piedmostí people. Such large animals would require a lot of food. Given that mammoth meat seemed to have been the staple food at Piedmostí, enough surplus food would have been available to feed the dogs.”

They remark on the “large frequency (40%) of perforated neurocrania” (something also found at Eliseevichi, discussed below).  Although this may be to eat the brain of the animal, it could also have ritual significance: 

“The fact that the same phenomena are found circumpolar testifies that these ritual practices are both common and widespread, and date from a much earlier period. In light of this, we may surmise with some confidence that humans perforated the canid skulls at Piedmostí as part of a ritual performance.”

Another possible indication of ritual involvement with these early dogs was the presence of a bone inserted inside the mouth of a dog, probably after the dog died. These factors “hint at a specific relationship between humans and large canids, including the possibility of the existence of a wolf/dog ritual that could be connected to the sending of souls.”

Other Sites

In the deepest part of the Chauvet Cave in France, a track of canid footprints was associated with those of a child…. Torch wipes made by this child were dated about 26,000 years ago.  Based on the short length of medial fingers in the footprints the canid track was interpreted as being made by a large dog.”  (Germonpre et al., 2009)  Nevertheless, the footprints could also be those of a captive wolf.

A Russian site at Eliseevichi, from about 17,000 years ago, yielded a large number of mammoth bones among the food debris of the site.  Reindeer and arctic fox were also common.  Sablin and Khlopachev (2002) noted that since wolves and humans were competing for the same food, “it is not difficult to surmise how an alliance could have been formed between them.”  These authors referred to their canid find as one of the earliest Ice Age dogs.  They argue:

“It seems probable that humans tamed wolf pups in many parts of the world and therefore that several subspecies of wolf contributed to the ancestry of the dog. We suggest that the specimens of dogs reported here were domesticated in situ from local northern wolves.”

Artistic Representations in the Magdalenian, 17,000 to 11,000 Years Ago

Canids are infrequent in early Eurasian rock art, though a polychrome painting of a wolf in the Font-de-Gaume cave in southwestern France has been dated to the Magdalenian culture, between 17,000 and 11,000 years ago.  Cottes and Lewis-Williams date it more narrowly to 15,000 to 13,000 years ago. Caution on early dating of cave painting must come from Paul Pettit's (2008) analysis of the Chauvet art.  

Animals do not usually appear in rock art without having a function to the community of the artist, though the function may be impossible to fathom.  Although the early depiction of a wolf in Font-de-Gaume could indicate that for the inhabitants of this particular area of Paleolithic France, wolves could be viewed as food, this and other paintings on the wall of the cave could also be the earliest known depictions of dogs.  Although Abbé Breuil made watercolors of the paintings at a time when they were better preserved than they are now, he apparently sought to capture the essence of the paintings, rather than depicting them precisely as he saw them  (Eshleman 2009).

It is appropriate to note that the artists who painted the cave walls likely did not live in the cave.  One painting of a bison includes superimposed depictions of buildings, perhaps communal huts.  Another shows a structure superimposed on a mammoth.


In 1997, a team of scientists that included Carles Vila, Peter Savolainen, and Robert Wayne, analyzed canine mitochondrial DNA and concluded that their genetic evidence “suggested that dogs originated more than 100,000 years before the present.”  More specifically, they stated that “dogs could have originated as much as 135,000 years ago.”  They acknowledged that their “estimates may be inflated by unobserved multiple substitutions at hypervariable sites,” and said that sequence divergence in one clade “clearly implies an origin more ancient than the 14,000 years before the present suggested by the archaeological record.”  Further:

Bison, Habitations Superimposed, Font-de-Gaume Cave (painting by Breuil, 1910)
“To explain the discrepancy in dates, we hypothesize that early domestic dogs may not have been morphologically distinct from their wild relatives. Conceivably, the change around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to more sedentary agricultural population centers may have imposed new selective regimes on dogs that resulted in marked phenotypic divergence from wild wolves.” 

Verginelli et al. (2005) agree, saying: “[G]enetic separation between dogs and wolves is likely to have occurred only after the Neolithic agropastoral revolution (~8,000 YA) that resulted in incompatibility between wolves and humans because of the presence of livestock…” This group suggests that “Late Glacial/Early Holocene wolf populations of the West Eurasian steppes (that stretched over South-Eastern Europe and West Asia) contributed to the origins of the dog.”  They also indicate that the genetic data suggests “multiple independent Asian and European domestication events.”

Although Vila et al. (1997) may be the most widely cited canine genetics paper, many if not most of the contributors have not adhered to the early dating of domestication.

Divergence Analysis Places Separation 30,000 Years Ago

Skoglund et al. (2010), analyzing genetic divergence between dogs and wolves, calculated a dog-wolf divergence time of as recent as 10,000 years ago without gene flow between dogs and wolves.  They argued that this was too recent because “making inferences based on a model with complete isolation of dogs and wolves might underestimate divergence times.”   Taking into account a low level of gene flow, therefore, they pushed the divergence point back to 30,000 years ago.  This finding was rather tentative, however, given that population sizes and bottlenecking events could move the date one way or the other. 

This team considered divergence periods for separate wolf populations from China, India, Spain, and Alaska.  Curiously, they found Indian wolves closest to dogs, which is hard to correlate with some other studies (See Sharma et al. (2003), finding “local ‘pariah’ dog breeds were brought into the Himalayas and peninsular India by humans and were not domesticated independently” from Indian wolves; Li and Zhang (2012), finding Tibetan Mastiffs closer to dogs from East Asia).  Skoglund et al. favor the position that Middle Eastern wolves contributed “the major part of the ancestry of modern dogs,” because of their finding of closest proximity of Indian wolves and dogs.  This conclusion seems at present an unwarranted leap. 

Considerable caution must be exercised in trying to gather hard dates from such research.  As Vila et al. note in discussing backcrossing:

“[O]ur simulations suggest that the contribution of the ancestral species to the diversity of our domesticates could have gone far beyond the initial domestication events…. Unfortunately, the difficulties in modeling all of the factors that could affect the role of backcrosses (including the degree and time of overlap between the distribution ranges of the domestic and wild taxa or the rate of backcrossing) hinder an estimation of their frequency.”

East Asia Locus

In 2002, Peter Savolainen and his colleagues stunned the world of canine research by arguing that the locus of canine domestication was East Asia, and that this occurred about 16,000 years ago, a position they have bolstered a number of times since (Pang et al. 2009; Klutsch and Savolainen 2011; Ding et al. 2012).  In defending his East Asian argument, Savolainen argued that further research may move most of the inconsistent archeological finds into the category of aberrant wolves (Klutsch and Savolainen).

In 2009, Boyko et al. argued that because Savolainen’s research “included many East Asian village dogs but few village dogs from other regions, their conclusion of high levels of East Asian diversity is likely a consequence of high levels of mitochondrial diversity in village dogs and not necessarily an indication of East Asian domestication.” Looking at mitochondrial DNA of African village dogs, Boyko et al. concluded that “local mtDNA diversity did not differ systematically between African regions and similarly sized regions in East Asia, the purported origin of domestic dogs.” They do not suggest Africa as a site of dog domestication, but do see their findings as putting Savolainen’s conclusions in doubt.

In 2013, Marie-Dominique Crapon de Caprona and Peter Savolainen published a paper, heavily laden with excellent photographs, to make the case for phenotype diversity among village dogs of southern China.  They summarize the prior arguments made by their school of thought on the locus of domestication issue:

“[T]he genetic diversity for [mtDNA and Y-chromosomal DNA] markers is distinctly higher for dogs in southern East Asia than in all other dog populations across the world.  Most noticeably, in the universal dog gene pool there are 10 principal genetic groups of mtDNA, and all these groups have been found in southern East Asia, while only subsets of this gene pool were found in other regions, for example, Europe (4 of 10 groups), Southwest Asia (5), and north China (5).  This gives a strong indication that today’s Domestic Dog (Canis familiaris) originated from wolves in southern Eastern Asia, thus suggesting a region not previously thought to be the place dog origins.” They argue that it “is unlikely that this richness of phenotypes would originate from a recent extensive crossbreeding to European dogs, the dogs … being traditionally bred in rural villages with no known influence of European breeds and therefore most probably indigenous to southern China.” 

Also in 2013, Niskanen et al., a team that included Savolainen, found that major histocompatibility complex (MHC) diversity was highest in Asian dogs, though Northeast Asia and Southwest Asia were nearly identical under this measure of diversity. They gave a number of scenarios that could explain their data, but preferred an estimate of around 500 individuals (translating into a census population of 1,200 to 1,500 individuals).  They see this large founding population as consistent with the argument of the Coppingers (2001), where taking advantage of food waste around villages “probably developed over a period of time and in an expanded region.”

Bottleneck 27,000 Years Ago

Lindblad-Toh and a massive number of colleagues (2005) concluded that linkage disequilibrium (LD) of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were best explained as reflecting “two principal bottlenecks in dog history: early domestication and recent breed creation.”  The first bottleneck was estimated to be about 9,000 generations ago, or approximately 27,000 years ago. 

Starch Digestion

Most recently, Axelsson et al. (2013) argue that dog domestication was accompanied by selection at three genes with key roles in starch digestion. 

Rock Painting, Tassili n Ajjer, Algeria (Neolithic Agricultural Site)
“Our results show that adaptations that allowed the early ancestors of modern dogs to thrive on a diet rich in starch, relative to the carnivorous diet of wolves, constituted a crucial step in early dog domestication. This may suggest that a change of ecological niche could have been the driving force behind the domestication process, and that scavenging in waste dumps near the increasingly common human settlements during the dawn of the agricultural revolution may have constituted this new niche. In light of previous results describing the timing and location of dog domestication, our findings may suggest that the development of agriculture catalysed the domestication of dogs.”

This, of course, easily correlates with the argument that agriculture led to a final separation of dogs and wolves since dogs would now have to defend the livestock against wolves. 

Middle East Argument

In 2010, vonHoldt et al. concluded, based on a higher proportion of haplotype sharing of dogs with wolves from the Middle East, that wolves from that area “are a dominant source of genetic diversity for dogs rather than wolves from east Asia.” Although they find the Middle East to be the “primary source of genetic variation in the dog,” they accept that there could be “potential secondary sources of variation from Europe and east Asia.”   They note that the primary contribution of Middle Eastern wolves is consistent with the archeological record.

Wayne and vonHoldt (2012), in a paper summarizing some of their prior work, observe that “a large number of genes appear associated with the early phase of domestication” and that “much of the distinct morphologic diversity of dogs reflects variation in a relatively small number of genes.” (See also Boyko et al. 2010.)  Acknowledging that “the similarity of some specific East Asian ancient breeds and Chinese wolves suggests that wolves from this area contributed to the dog genome as well,” these two authors believe that “the significant component of haplotype sharing for 15-SNP windows implies both the Middle East and Europe may have contributed substantially to the genome of domestic dogs, a result that is consistent with the archeological record.” This indicates multiple domestication events and several locations. 

Southeast Asian Village Dogs

Brown et al. (2011) come closest to finding a common ground between the Middle Eastern and Asian origin theories.  They concluded “based on both matrilineal and patrilineal markers that extant dogs of Southeast Asia … harbor more genetic diversity than the Middle East.” They acknowledge that they did not test village dogs from “a large intervening portion of Asia….”  As to African breeds, they find haplotypes reflecting a “paternal lineage of dogs not present in Asia.”

They suggest a “deep divergence” of Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian village dog patrilines “reaching at least as far back as 10,000—16,000 years.”  Village dog populations of these two areas “must have originated either from a common gene pool thousands of years before present or from distinct groups of wolf or wolf-like founders, but are clearly not the product of post-Victorian expansion of dog breeds.”  The abstract indicates that this divergence predates the Neolithic ages. Current breeds identified as European and American “clustered in the Southeast Asia clade, which ran counter to expectations.”  Their “most parsimonious” explanation of this is, however, unsatisfactory:

“[T]he near complete lack of Middle Eastern haplotypes in Western breeds was unexpected given the relative proximity of Europe to the Middle East relative to East Asia. The most parsimonious interpretation of these findings would seem to be that modern European breed dogs are overwhelmingly derived from recently imported exotic stock and not reflective of ancient indigenous ancestry. This interpretation is also supported by findings in ancient DNA studies in Europe and the America’s, which have uniformly found discontinuities between ancient and modern dogs, indicating relatively recent replacements of historical dog populations with post-Victorian breed dogs.”

This would involve a wholesale replacement of a large number of breeds with no historical connection to the orient by Eastern breeds or types that have no phylogenetic similarity to European breeds (except arguably in village dogs, which were not generally carried anywhere).  It is much easier to imagine that European and Asian dogs have a common origin in Russia or Siberia, and that somehow these two groups separated after a separation of Middle Eastern dogs from the ancestors of both of them.  Brown et al., in discussing implications for future research, suggest expanded sampling in, among other areas, central and northern Eurasia.  Sampling these areas more extensively should be a priority for any research group involved in this debate. 

Middle Eastern Small Dogs

In 2010, Gray et al. concluded that “grey wolves of Middle East origin were slightly closer to domestic dogs” as to a specific size-relevant allele. Variants in the IGF1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) gene are “fixed in the majority of small distantly related dog breeds which suggests that small size evolved early in the history of domestication.” A few giant breeds (mastiffs, bullmastiffs, and rottweilers) share the “small” allele, but no wild canid so far tested has been found to have this variant.  They conclude that “in concordance with past archeological studies, our molecular analysis provides strong evidence for the early evolution of small size in dogs in the Middle East, more than 12,000 years ago.” As discussed in a prior blog, however, the conclusions of this group were immediately disputed. 


A 2012 article by Greger Larson and a number of colleagues who have already been mentioned here, including Carles Vila and Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, noted the number of dog remains older than 12,000 years in many locations and older than 8,000 years everywhere within the maximal distribution of wolves, suggested that this implied “independent domestications of local populations of wolves, migration of humans possessing dogs, or the secondary acquisition of dogs by groups that were not involved in the domestication process.”  

The observation that dogs could be secondarily acquired by groups of humans that were not involved in the domestication process is important.  This must be part of the explanation for the almost complete disappearance of pre-Columbian dog types in the Americas after the arrival of European dogs.  (Castroviejo-Fisher et al. 2011)  Dingoes may well have arrived in Australia with seafaring peoples who did not stay, yet the dogs formed relationships with earlier inhabitants of the island (Smith and Litchfield 2009).  Indeed, the increasing importance of village dogs in research on the origins of dogs reflects a focus on dogs whose habitation and movements across areas are often not specifically connected with any human purpose.  It is not difficult to imagine that dogs in Eurasia would separate from a human encampment when a camp split, some of the dogs going with a new group, which may have included enemies of the original group. 

Very little is known about migration patterns in the Paleolithic.  Some parallels with human genetic similarities have allowed for speculation, however. Combined groups of people and dogs may have entered Tibet and Japan in the Holocene, or conceivably the late Paleolithic, as noted by Li and Zhang (2012):

“[I]ntriguingly, three [Tibetan Mastiff] haplotypes showed a genetic link between dogs of the Qing-Tibet Plateau and Japan…, similar to the genetic link between Tibetans and Japanese [peoples] …. Based on the rare derived haplotypes from the three major haplotypes in Tibet, it is prudent to conclude a Holocene origin for the Tibetans-Japanese linkage, while the hypothesis of Pleistocene migration towards both the Qing-Tibet Plateau and eastern seacoast to Japan needs more evidence.” 

It will be important to consider human migration data in relation to evidence for dog origins.  For instance, a recent study has argued for a human migration from Southeast Asia to East Asia during the Last Glacial Maximum (Cai et al. 2011), which may indicate that the somewhat different loci posited by Savolainen and his colleagues are the same as those posited by Brown and her colleagues.   

It should, in any case, not be imagined that domestication of wolves is easy.  As discussed in a prior blog, most geneticists have concluded that American wolves were not domesticated.  (This statement must be qualified, however, by reference to the fact that a degree of domestication occurred with certain South American canids, as discussed in another blog.)


Bison in Font-de-Gaume Cave (painting by Breuil, 1910)
Knowing full well that any pronouncements I have the hubris to make are likely to be made lies by future research, and accepting that my connections to science are now so attenuated as to not justify broadcast of my opinions in the first place, I will nevertheless stick my neck out.  I do believe that Germonpre has shifted the burden of proof, and that those who would argue that domestication is restricted to periods after the Last Glacial Maximum cannot ignore the evidence, both archeological and genetic, that there were significant changes to wolf-human relations beginning in the Aurignacian.  I also accept that those changes likely continued through the Last Glacial Maximum, though probably with significant bottlenecking (Brace et al. 2012), which reduced the variability found in partially domesticated wolves earlier. 

I am not convinced that there were multiple domestication events in the post-Last Glacial Maximum.  Earlier migrations could have led to separations within the original modified wolf population (or more likely populations, given the acknowledged diversity of the animals found at separate sites).  Such migrations could explain the divergence between Far Eastern and Middle Eastern dog groups, and a later separation, perhaps during the Last Glacial Maximum, could have occurred between Eurasian populations that went separately towards Asia and Europe.  It is hard to say how much refinement can be made to the Aurignacian argument without significantly more animals being identified as Upper Paleolithic dogs, and a full understanding would also require knowing considerably more about human migrations in the same period.

The following table collects the major dates and locations included in this discussion.

Years Before Present
(genetic studies in red)
Early dating for dog domestication
Two clades closest to wolf sequences from eastern Europe
Vila et al. (1997)
Animal remains of early Upper Paleolithic Kostenki site include canids categorized as Pleistocene wolves; wolf bones found with other animal bones
River Don, Russia, near Voronezh
Germonpre et al. (2012)
Pierced objects, such as teeth, increasingly used as decoration; finds include at Grotte des Hyene at Brassempouy
Southwestern France
White (2003)
Aurignacian sites in southern Europe perhaps culturally distinct from northern Europe; bead types may indicate distinct language families. 
Vandaeren and d’Errico
(cal. 36,000)
Large domestic dogs associated with Aurignacian culture (though other scholars, such as Pionnier-Capitain et al. question whether this may represent a divergent wolf population); the animals preyed primarily on horses and large bovids; researchers speculate dogs may have helped in tracking, hunting, or transport of large game, including mammoths.
Goyet cave in Samson Valley, Belgium
29,950-27,850 (cal. 33,500-33,000)
Skull may represent an “incipient” dog in the early stages of domestication, but researchers argue that its lineage did not survive the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM).
Razboinichya Cave in Altai Mountains of southern Siberia
Ovodov et al. (2011)
Estimated divergence of wolves and dogs assuming continuing low level of gene flow between groups.
India (Middle East?)
Skoglund et al. (2010)
Early ancient genetic bottleneck eliminating much of early dog diversity.
East Asia (by secondary reference)
Lindblad-Toh et al. (2005)
Canids identified as Paleolithic dogs; Gravettian culture hunted mammoths, horse, bison, and reindeer; one dog or small wolf was found in a human burial zone; human occupation took place in warmer periods preceding LGM.
Predmosti site, Czech Republic
Germonpre et al. (2012)
Gravettian site produced wolf vertebra with cut marks, possibly from dismembering or filleting the carcass.
Milovice Valley, Czech Republic
Svoboda et al. (2011)
Beginning of Last Glacial Maximum
Tracks of large dog or wolf and child in Chauvet cave; torch wipes made by this child were dated to c. 26,000 years before present; short length of medial fingers of canid were interpreted as being made by a large dog.
Germonpre et al. (2009)
Avdeevo Gravettian site included images of wolves; presence of large number of remains from foxes and wolves suggests inhabitants hunted for fur; perforated canines from foxes and wolves were used as adornment.
Russian Plain near Kursk
Gvozdover (1995): Germonpre et al. (2009 and 2012)
End of Last Glacial Maximum
Dog skulls similar in shape but slightly larger than Siberian huskies excavated in remains of dwelling of Epigravettian culture site; may have been cooperation in hunting but dogs were probably also eaten (holes in sides of skulls).
Eliseevichi Cave, Dnieper River basin, Russia
Sablin and Khlopachev; Germonpre et al. (2009)
Polychrome cave painting of wolf, Magdalenian culture
Font de Gaume cave, southwestern France
Capitan (1910)
Domestic Dog originated in southern China from several hundred wolves.

China, south of the Yangtze River
Pang et al. (2009)
Analysis of village dogs in both locations suggests Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian village dog partilines have “deep divergence.”
Broad sampling of village dogs in Southeast Asia
Brown et al. (2011)
Late Glacial small dogs found in southwest and northern France similar in size but distinguishable from dholes; cutmarks indicate dogs were sometimes eaten (“irregular and anecdotal in terms of subsistence strategy”); authors suggest “at least two different evolutionary scenarios for Late Glacial dogs’ domestication, and likely at least two independent areas for dog domestication.”
Pont d’Ambon, Montespan, Le Closeau, France
Medium-sized dogs associated with Natufian culture in Near East, including burials.
Davis and Valla (1978); Dayan (1994)
Domestic dog identified as Paleolithic.
Kesslerlock Cave, Switzerland
Napierala and Uerpmann, H.-P. (2010)
Possible simultaneous migration of dogs and men of same group into Tibet and Japan.
Human and canine migration out of China
Li and Zhang
Dog remains found in Hebei Province, NE China, as indicated by mandible dentition.
Yuan et al. (2008) (citing unpublished results)

Thanks to Richard Hawkins, Kingsbury Parker, Eric Krieger, and Brian Duggan for comments and improvements.  Thanks to Dr. Germonpre for clarifying dates. Thanks to Betty Murphy for assistance in finding sources at the library of the Heard Museum in Phoenix.  

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