Human Characteristics of a Dog

By Elle Di Jensen

You think of your dog as a member of the family, but until you consider the similarities, you may not realize how close humans and dogs really are. Dogs share many characteristics with humans including emotions, brain and digestive systems, dietary needs and five senses. There are even some diseases that affect both humans and dogs. Comparing all the ways humans and dogs are alike, it is no wonder they are considered man's best friend.

Digestive Systems and Dietary Requirements

Both humans and dogs have monogastric digestive systems. That means that they each have only one stomach that secretes acid and breaks down the food they eat. The entire digestive system of both humans and dogs includes:

  • Mouth
  • Salivary glands
  • Teeth
  • Esophagus and stomach
  • Small and large intestines
  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Gall bladder

The nutrients those digestive systems process are similar, too. Dogs and humans both need protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and plenty of water in their diets to remain healthy.

Emotions and Behaviors

Anyone who lives with a dog knows that they experience emotions. In his article for Psychology Today, University of British Columbia professor of psychology Stanley Coren, Ph.D., says that dogs do, indeed, experience emotions like humans do. However, the depth to which they experience them is more like a 2-year-old child rather than an adult. Still, that means that dogs feel emotions such as love and affection, shyness, joy, anger, fear, jealousy, disgust, contentment, distress and excitement. Dogs will even laugh and feel grief over a loss, such as when a human or animal companion dies.

Similarities of the Brains

It could be that dogs behave in similar ways to humans and share some of the same emotions because their brains have essentially the same structures. Not only do human and dog brains produce oxytocin, a hormone that encourages affection and bonding, but they also have similar neurological regions that produce like responses in both. A 2014 study00123-7) published in Current Biology revealed that, through these voice-sensitive areas in their brains, humans and dogs process the voices of others and the emotions attached to them in the same way.

All Five Senses

Humans and dogs share the same five senses of taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell. They both use those senses to experience the world however, dogs primarily rely on their senses of hearing and smell, using their other three senses as "backup." Humans, on the other hand, rely on vision as their primary sense, but in her article for Scientific American, science journalist Lena Groegner reveals that, most of the time, the senses team up and work together to affect the way humans perceive things.

Infections, Viruses and Parasites

Though you might enjoy sharing your life with your dog, you don't want to share a disease with him. Unfortunately, there are viruses, infections and parasites that dogs and humans can share and sometimes transmit to each other. These include streptococcus, staphylococcus, ringworm, rabies, leptospirosis and gastrointestinal infections such as salmonella. Additionally, because of the influenza virus's ability to mutate, it's even possible for your dog to catch the flu from you.