In everything they do, dogs make it clear how much they love their humans. Dogs and humans have been companions for centuries. While their ancestors are wild canines, like wolves and coyotes, domestic dogs evolved and were bred over time to be companions and helpers to people due to the human-canine bond. They naturally befriend and grow close with the animals with whom they spend their time and on whom they grow to rely, a trait that may stem from their roots as wolves who lived in packs.
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When humans began spending time with wolves tens of thousands of years ago, the two species grew and developed a strong bond. Wolves provided comfort, company, and help to humans. Over the years, domestic dogs were bred to have these traits as well. Today, dogs remain a popular pet, and they work alongside humans as service animals, police assistants, and hunters.
Human-canine bond and domestication
Signs indicate that the domestication process started more than 30,000 years ago, with initial records of domesticated dogs started 15,000 years later. Over time, gene mutation happened in wolves that caused them to be more comfortable around people, and dog domestication evolved from there.
While many people assume this started with animals living with wolves and raised them to be human companions, the human-canine bond likely happened accidentally and more slowly than that, with a wolf and human having a symbiotic relationship, the animals growing more comfortable with humans in their environment and seeing the benefits, such as finding humans' hunting leftovers while scavenging.
Dogs working with people
As the first domesticated animal, dogs were not only bred to be our buddies. Since dogs are highly intelligent creatures, training them comes naturally and makes them good at learning many different types of jobs. In the past, that mainly consisted of things like sheep herding, hunting, and assisting in crime searches. While dogs still do these things today, they also serve as helpers. Support or service dogs assist people with vision loss, hearing impairment, mental health disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other disabilities.
Certain breeds are better suited to do different tasks. When it comes to guide dogs, golden retrievers, German shepherds, and Labrador retrievers are most common. The size and breed of a dog can make them more suited to other roles. For example, Great Danes, Bernese mountain dogs, and Saint Bernards can assist with mobility, while smaller dogs may be good at finding health problems in people.
Proving happiness and comfort
Over the thousands of years that humans and dogs have cohabited, the bond between them has continued to grow. The relationship between pets and their owners has many benefits. About 78 million dogs live as pets in the United States, providing their humans with friendship and love. Dogs have been shown to lower stress and anxiety in humans as well as potentially lowering people's blood pressure.
With their friendly nature, dogs can help people get out of the house and meet other people. They allow people to feel comfortable and quickly make friends. Because of this, therapy dogs are often brought in to places like nursing homes and hospitals.
While dogs bring us a lot of joy and much-needed emotional support, they reap a lot from the relationship as well. Quality time can help your dogs feel safe and loved and can increase their trust and bond with you. Spending time playing and socializing together increases dogs' happiness level. While they are motivated by food, dogs rely on humans for much more. They look to us for care and protection and see people as their family members.
Dog bonds with other species
Beyond the love dogs have for humans, canines can also form friendships with other species. Due to their friendly nature, dogs are capable of befriending many other animals, from other canines to cats, birds, and ferrets.
Not all dogs want to befriend other animals, however, and any introductions should be done slowly. Watch for signs of anger in the body language and sounds of the animals you are introducing. If possible, give them separate areas to which they can go for space as they get to know one another and learn each other's scents.
- Discover Magazine: Dogs Have Co-Evolved With Humans Like No Other Species
- Psychology Today: How A Man's Best Friend Is More Than Just A Companion
- Texas A&M University Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences: The Unconditional Love of Pets
- The Atlantic: A New Origin Story For Dogs
- American Kennel Club: Service Dogs 101 — Everything You Need to Know
- American Humane: Introducing Dogs to Cats