I found this to be a disappointing book. (I had eagerly anticipated it.) It starts out by discussing the tracks of a boy and a wolf or "dogwolf" found in association in the famous Chauvet Cave. The author sets much store on this supposed association. He completely disregards the possibilities mentioned in Werner Herzog's recent documentary on the cave that wolf might have been stalking the boy...or that the tracks were made thousands of years apart.
I am not a trained paleontologist or paleoanthropologist, so I do not feel fully qualified to critique the major hypothesis of his book--that dogs arose from a very ancient hunting partnership between wolves and humans or even pre-humans. However, when I find numerous errors of fact in things I do know about, I tend to be distrustful of an author's assertions about matters where I can't claim expertise. For instance, on page 68 among the animals mentioned as part of the massive dying off of megafauna at the end of the Pleistocene, he includes the aurochs. In point of fact, the aurochs made it through that period just fine. Some were tamed by our Neolithic ancestors to become our domestic cattle. In their wild form, they were familiar to the ancient Hebrews, Greeks and Romans (they were favorites of the Roman arena) and only became extinct in A.D. 1627. On the same page, the author evinces an old-fashioned prejudice against hyenas. In point of fact, hyenas can be very tame and affectionate if raised from cubs and can do almost anything a dog can as well or better. Although author Derr states, "There is no evidence that any human group tried to befriend them," in fact the ancient Egyptians did try domesticating them. The hyena's downfall as a human partner is their enormous appetite--they simply eat too much.
Again, on page 196, he mentions among the New World megafauna that were wiped out around the time of the arrival of humans, "giant rhinos" and "flightless rheas." There were no rhinos, giant or otherwise, in North America in the Pleistocene. The rheas still seem to be thriving over a large part of South America.
As I said, I am not a paleontologist. However, I do have a Ph.D. in ancient history, and I have studied the matter of dogs in antiquity somewhat intensely. On page 230, he says, "By the sixth century BC the Greeks recognized four groups of dogs: strong Laconian, or Spartan, hunting dogs; slow, powerful Molossian guard dogs; Crete dogs, crosses of Laconian and Molossian; and Melitan, a small, long-haired, short-legged dog." Now how do we know this? There is nothing notable on dogs in Greek literature before the fourth century. Since the Molossian dog was used for running down hares, it could not have been a "slow, powerful guard dog." This misidentification of the ancient Molossus dog with the mastiffs was the work of Renaissance humanists . Much of the rest of what he says about dogs in the Greek and Roman world is a mere regurgitation of 19th century romantic nonsense. I have been able to find no evidence that the Romans practiced dogfighting or used dogs against large carnivores in the arena.
In all, the book strikes me sloppily researched and poorly documented.
A final bit of evidence of the pervasive sloppiness of this book can be found on page 230, where the author attempts a sort of paraphrase of Homer and refers to "Emmaus, the swineherd for Odysseus." The faithful swineherd's name can be transliterated as "Eumaeus" or "Eumaios." Emmaus is a village in Judea mentioned in the Gospel of St. Luke! This may be nit-picky of me, but if the man is going paraphrase Homer, he ought at least to get the names right! I have to wonder if the copy editor was also asleep at the wheel!