The evidence that primitive dogs had been domesticated by at least 36,000 years ago is mounting. With the dog/wolf split being traced back to about 100,000 years it is not implausible that the split itself was related to the propensity for the more intelligent/more cooperative wolves “hanging around” humans. My tentative time-line is that this was first a one-sided association initiated by the wolves and by 50 – 60,000 years ago had developed into a mutual association and which in turn led to proper domestication of dogs sometime prior to 36,000 years ago.
Researchers have “isolated, sequenced and analysed 413 nucleotides of the mitochondrial DNA control region from a putative dog specimen dated as approx. 33,000 cy from the Altai Mountains in central Asia. Only a single specimen – namely the Goyet dog (36,000 cy) predates the Altai dog and hence it is thus far the second oldest known specimen assigned morphologically to the domestic dog”. They find that “the unique haplotype of the Altai dog is more closely related to modern dogs and prehistoric New World canids than it is to contemporary wolves”.
Druzhkova AS, Thalmann O, Trifonov VA, Leonard JA, Vorobieva NV, et al. (2013) Ancient DNA Analysis Affirms the Canid from Altai as a Primitive Dog. PLoS ONE 8(3): e57754. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057754
The origin of domestic dogs remains controversial, with genetic data indicating a separation between modern dogs and wolves in the Late Pleistocene. However, only a few dog-like fossils are found prior to the Last Glacial Maximum, and it is widely accepted that the dog domestication predates the beginning of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. In order to evaluate the genetic relationship of one of the oldest dogs, we have isolated ancient DNA from the recently described putative 33,000-year old Pleistocene dog from Altai and analysed 413 nucleotides of the mitochondrial control region. Our analyses reveal that the unique haplotype of the Altai dog is more closely related to modern dogs and prehistoric New World canids than it is to contemporary wolves. Further genetic analyses of ancient canids may reveal a more exact date and centre of domestication.