Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Relationship Between Dog and Man

The road to domestication is murky.

Dogs are arguably our best friends forever. But how did that happen? The timeline of when the first dog was domesticated is still vigorously contested. It is still unclear even when the dog first split from its wolf ancestors. Genetic DNA evidence puts the first dog at 14,200 years ago. However, it is possible the earliest dogs were with us between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.
Maybe a better and just as mysterious question is why did it happen? A strong and compelling argument is that wolf individuals domesticated themselves. Wolves that were less aggressive, more social, more curious, and less fearful were more successful in their quest to obtain food amidst human activity. Studies have shown that domestication leads to an evolution in appearance. Originally dogs probably changed in an outward appearance on their own with longer ears, shorter muzzles, and smaller teeth.

Why do we love being with a dog?

Regardless of how or why it happened, dogs are here with us to stay and we love them. Why do we crave that our closest companions be furry, sometimes large predatory beasts? Originally, humans likely had a symbiotic relationship with their canine associates. The wolves evolving into dogs were getting easy meals and warmth and the hunter-gatherers were perhaps getting much-needed help to bring down prey larger than themselves. Hunters then weren't able to provide modern dog hunting supplies, but evidence exists that dogs and humans had a cooperative relationship on hunts. Today when there isn't such a need, the reasons are less obvious. There may be a genetic component to desiring the company of animals. Also present is the creation of a bond with a being that depends on us and which resembles the connection between a parent and a child. Finally, there appears to be interspecies oxytocin release when dogs and humans are together and looking at each other.
How did the bond between dog and humans evolve?

Dogs served humans in many ways over time. An ancient community in the Siberian region used dogs to pull sleds, at least 2000 years ago. In Mesopotamia, dogs were generally of two classes: greyhound-type dogs that hunted and large mastiff-type dogs that herded and protected sheep and goats from predators or guarded personal property. In other parts of history, dogs have served as companions, hunting dogs, or guard dogs. Their proficiency for guarding herds, flocks, and homes in ancient history is well-documented.

What type of dog makes a good family member?

Many dogs make good family pets. The largest considerations are your lifestyle, the dog's temperament, and degree of social development. By lifestyle, we mean the potential dog should suit your goals. For example, if you want to hunt with your dog, you need one with certain qualities, such as good tracking or good retrieving skills. Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and beagles make good pets that also hunt. They are social and friendly, energetic enough for children, and are able to transform easily into the home from an outdoor event. The Havanese and poodle make excellent family pets that are loving around children and will alert of intruders without acting overly aggressive. Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, and German Shepherds are loyal family dogs who also have guard-dog qualities.

What do dogs do today for humans?

Much of the requirements ancient people had for dogs still exist today. Many people still use dogs to assist with hunting. In fact, dogs have expanded into types of hunting that go beyond the sight hunting of older civilizations. Dogs continue to be indispensable in guarding homes and personal belongings, herding cattle, sheep, and other flocks. Their utilization has broadened to criminal investigations and rescue operations, as well as therapy. We truly take our dogs everywhere these days.

Ultimately, dogs were domesticated to serve humans, whether as companions or for hunting, herding, guarding, operating rescue efforts or tracking drugs. The traits desired in a good hunting or herding dog are also ideal in any of the other myriads of services dogs provide. Temperament, loyalty, a good nose, and trainability are qualities we have come to expect from our four-legged best friends after centuries of domestication and cohabitation.