You have heard it time and time again that a dog is a human's best friend. But how can you be so sure? You feel like your dog loves you, but you also know that your dog loves table scraps, of which you give your dog plenty. Is your furry friend's love true, or is he just begging for your pot roast? (Don't betray me, Waffles, it can't be so!)
And what about when your dog interacts with other pups at the park? You may notice that Fido has a preferred playmate, but does this mean that the two fluffers are bffs, or is it just a passing infatuation?
Do dogs form real friendships? Can dogs have best friends?
How do we define animal friendship?
From an evolutionary point of view, we think that animals and humans alike make friends to improve their evolutionary fitness and chances for survival. But do animals really form friendships, or are we just projecting ourselves and our behaviors onto them? In her book _Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bon_d, science journalist Lydia Denworth explains that the capacity to form social relationships, including friendship, is present in multiple species of animals. In fact, even social animals of different species can be one another's preferred playmate due to shared features of social parts of the brain (i.e. dogs and their humans).
Does my dog only love me because I give him food?
No, your dog is way better than that, give him some credit. Yes, dogs are motivated by food, treats, and toys, but also so much more! Brain imaging technology and studies show us that our dogs love us back, see us as family, and rely on us for affection and protection. So while chicken scraps are absolute heaven, you are ten times better than a chicken carcass to your dog. Doesn't that make you feel like a hundred bucks?
How do dogs choose friends?
Dogs choose their friends by communicating through body language to demonstrate their friendliness and willingness to socialize and play. One way of doing so is through a "play bow" where the rear end of the dog is up, and the front end is down. Another is when a dog loosely wags his tail. Body language should be observed of all parties and taken into context of the situation to determine whether the situation is a friendly one.
Can dogs have best friends?
According to numerous veterinarians, and psychologists, dogs have the ability to select a preferred playmate. Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, explains:
"I think the choices animals make in cross-species relationships are the same as they'd make in same-species relationships. Some dogs don't like every other dog. Animals are very selective about the other individuals who they let into their lives."
Interestingly enough, according to a 2015 study, dogs were more willing to give up treats to another dog that they were familiar with as opposed to a dog they didn't know. In short, dogs are social animals with a strong ability to form bonds with one another and prefer certain peers over others based on familiarity.
Are dogs really man's best friend?
Not surprising to dog owners, science now confirms that dogs really are a man's best friend. A study by psychologist Dr. Chris Blazina found that male dog owners feel closer to their dog than their friends, family, and partners. In fact, as a male dog owner ages, his dog takes on an even more significant role in his life.
Dogs are social animals with the ability to make friends and choose a preferred playmate. Dogs choose their friends by communicating through body language and demonstrating a willingness to socialize with their canine peers. Your dog's preferred playmate is not limited to another dog: he can become chummy with other social animals too, including humans.. So if you were wondering if dogs really are man's best friend—don't doubt the old adage. A study confirms that dogs take on a significant role in a man's life, especially as he ages. As for if your dog just loves you because you give him scraps-- give me a break. Dogs are far more complex than that. They are loving and loyal to a fault. Rest assured that your dog loves you for you... and your scraps!