Dogs' loyalty to humans stems from the shared past of the two species. After the domestication of the dog, the species and humans began to change together. Consequently, the two species developed an understanding that no other species, including higher order primates, shares with humans. Research into the bond between humans and dogs has found a number of behaviors that developed from and continue to grow the loyalty between dogs and humans.
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Researchers originally believed domestic dogs separated from their wolf ancestors after they began living among humans. However, more recent studies suggest otherwise. Studies of the mitochondrial DNA of wolves and dogs show the two split about 135,000 years ago, according to the Adirondack Almanack.
Archaeological evidence, such as the discovery of buried dog bones near human settlements, suggests dogs and humans began sharing their lives between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago, according to The Atlantic. Although more research on the subject is needed, these studies show dogs were already a separate species when they first encountered humans.
One thing is certain, dogs have been part of our lives and helping us for many many millennia. And not only have we helped them, but they have helped us by performing a variety of tasks, according to NPR. Dogs have been loyal hunting companions to early humans and are still loyal today, performing tasks like helping those with disabilities to sniffing out cancer in humans. They even help lift our spirits by helping those with depression.
Dog loyalty facts
According to Merriam-Webster, loyalty means having a faithful allegiance to another person or institution. Some trainers and many dog loyalty facts indicate that dog loyalty stems from their pack behavior, according to Cesar's Way.
Because dogs want to bond with a group, they instinctively show loyalty to those who are or who could be part of their pack. Allegiance among members of the pack would be crucial to its success. Therefore, early dogs who wanted to form a pack with early humans would have expressed loyalty to those humans to make the pack work effectively for both species. These dog loyalty facts certainly show that dogs seem to have a natural instinct to be loyal to humans.
Communication and loyalty
Many people have dog loyalty stories based on their relationship with their dog. Part of this is due to the great communication that exists between dogs and humans.
Throughout their shared past, dogs have developed better ways of communicating with humans. Research argues that dogs are more human-like in their behaviors than any other animal, including primates, which is why there are so many dog loyalty stories around.
Many studies have tried to measure the loyalty of dogs towards their owners. For example, one study found that dogs can express empathy to humans and try to help them out, according to ScienceDaily. In the study, the dog's companion was either crying or humming in another room. The dog then opened the door to the other room to access the owner and comfort her companion primarily when she heard him crying. This response shows that dogs truly understand when we're sad and want to help us feel better, which is just another example of one of many dog loyalty stories you're sure to hear.
In other studies that looked at the loyalty of dogs towards their owners, researchers have found dogs can understand verbal and physical gestures from humans, as well as their facial expressions, according to Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. According to NOVA, humans also can accurately interpret the meaning of dog barks. This ability to communicate with one another –- something not found among other species –- developed from the species reliance on one another and continues to increase their loyalty to one another.
Dogs as equals
The the loyalty of dogs towards their owners also may stem from the fact that dogs view themselves as our equals –- not as a separate species. According to PLoS One, studies have shown that dogs can tell the difference between selfish and generous humans. In the study, dogs were offered food from a generous person, Human A, and from a self human, Human B. Human A allowed the dog to eat while Human B ate the food themselves before the dog could eat it.
When the dog was later allowed to mingle with the humans, adult dogs went to the human who gave them access to the food. Puppies didn't do the same thing because it seems that this is a learned behavior from interacting regularly with humans and having a full understanding of how humans behave and a complete understanding of selfish and generous behaviors. This understanding comes from dogs understanding similar behavior patterns in humans and dogs.
- Cesar's Way: The Loyalty of Dogs
- PLoS ONE: Dogs' Recognition of Human Selfish and Generous Attitudes Requires Little but Critical Experience With People
- ScienceDaily: Empathetic Dogs Lend a Helping Paw: Study Shows that Dogs that Remain Calm and Show Empathy During Their Owner's Distress Help Out Faster
- The Atlantic: A New Origin Story for Dogs
- Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews: Neurobiological Underpinnings of Dogs' Human-Like Social Competence: How Interactions Between Stress Response Systems and Oxytocin Mediate Dogs' Social Skills
- NPR: Canine Mystery: How Dogs Became Man's Best Friend
- NOVA: Dog Decoded Transcript
- Merriam Webster: Loyal
- Adirondack Almanack: Steve Hall -- How Did We Get Dogs From Wolves?