05/07/2019 12:00 AM
It may seem hard to believe, but all dogs, even the chihuahua and basset hound, are descended from wolves. It’s just that humans have had a big hand in changing their genetic makeup and turning them into hugely different breeds over the centuries.
Despite scientists not agreeing on when dogs were first domesticated, estimates fall between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. But how did this happen exactly?
How did fearsome, hardy, wild predators come to live with us, side by side? It’s hard now to picture a Yorkshire Terrier being a descendent of the mighty grey wolf.
Today’s pampered and much love pooches are a far cry from wild wolves. We treat our dogs like family, make sure they’ve covered by dog insurance and spoil them with plenty of treats! To many owners, their dog is literally their best friend.
In terms of where the first dogs were domesticated, well, there’s plenty of debate but genetic studies suggest areas such as Mongolia, Europe, Asia and southern China.
A recent study has suggested that dogs were domesticated in both Europe and Asia.
If you go by stories and hearsay, such as the tale documented in the film ‘Alpha’ then one hunter befriends an injured wolf. Though unfortunately there’s really not much evidence to back these claims up.
Another guess is that humans started to capture wolf pups and began keeping them as pets.
However, a lot of scientists tend to agree on another theory - one which surprisingly involves wolves actually domesticating themselves in a way.
When wolves began encountering humans instead of running away and keeping their distance, some started to test the water.
And perhaps it ended up being survival of the fittest in that the wolves who were friendlier towards humans tended to be more likely to survive.
So we ended up with larger numbers of wolves who were more likely to be friendly towards us.
Being friendly might have allowed them to access food from hunter-gatherers.
They may have started to be able to pick up on human cues and in time, humans began to build a relationship in return.
Without transporting ourselves back thousands of years, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how dogs became our best buds, but we can certainly make some educated guesses.
Once the bond was established, humans started realising that they could breed dogs for specific purposes such as hunting, retrieving, farming, herding and tracking.
It seems somewhere along the line we realised that dogs can simply be fabulous company and loyal companions, and so we bred dogs to be by our side as house pets, too.
It is claimed that the first time the phrase ‘man’s best friend’ was used, was in 1789 by King Frederick of Prussia.
“The only, absolute and best friend that a man has, in this selfish world, the only one that will not betray or deny him, is his DOG.”
He was talking about his Italian Greyhound when he used this phrase.
It was also used in a poem by Ogden Nash titled ‘An Introduction to Dogs.’ Here is the paragraph in which it is mentioned, right at the beginning of the poem.
‘The dog is man's best friend.
He has a tail on one end.
Up in front he has teeth.
And four legs underneath.’
Since then the phrase has been repeated, so much so that it has stuck in our minds and in our hearts.
These days, whenever you think of dogs, this saying comes to mind and it brings a feeling of great affection – especially to those who own a dog.
Well nowadays, it’s easy to see why we get so much out of our canine companions.
We provide everything for them including shelter, warmth, food and safety. Modern domesticated dogs have come to see this as a natural way of living.
And as mentioned above, wild wolves may have initially become friends with humans because they either realised we were an additional food source (giving them scraps) or they figured out it’s better to be friendly to us and survive than cause conflict and risk being killed.
Again, these are just theories but they seem like reasonable explanations as to why dogs would be friendly towards us.
When you ask any owner about why they love canines so much, it’s highly likely they will mention the fact that dogs are so loyal.
They are always there for us, and many will do absolutely anything for their owner, even try to save them or get help in an emergency.
Their loyalty knows no bounds, but why are dogs so loyal? It’s partially because they’ve learned to be over the centuries in their role as our companions.
They have come to expect loyalty as being part of their job description.
But it’s also because of the bond that humans have built with our doggy friends over time, whether they’re a pedigree show dog, a hound, or a mongrel rescue dog that’s had a rough start - we love our dogs unconditionally. And they start to recognise this.
It’s also hard to ignore that fact that dogs will reward us with their loyalty if we give them positive reinforcement like food and walkies and plenty of love.
Have you ever noticed how dogs will usually be more loyal and obedient towards whichever family member feeds them? This is no coincidence.
Another core reason why pups and pooches are loyal is because it’s built into them.
Dogs, like wolves, are pack animals. If you look at wolves in the wild, they’re extremely loyal to their pack and will protect and support them no matter the cost.
This is a part of what makes them such expert survival specialists – working together.
Well, domesticated dogs may have come to see us as their pack in a way, and they protect and support their pack members.
Studies have also shown that dogs can feel emotions and experience emotional contagion. The fact that they grow to adore their owners only further contributes to their devotion and loyalty.
So now that we’ve covered a brief history of dogs and how they potentially came to be at our side, let’s delve into what makes them so amazing and why today’s owners see their pup as their bestest bud in the world.
Here are ten reasons why dogs really are a man’s (or woman’s) best friend:
First and foremost, dogs are great company. Even when you’re feeling lonely and down, they’re there, staring back at you with those puppy dog eyes.
When you have a dog, you get used to having them around all the time for company, and your house feels so empty without them.
Part of the reason why they’re man’s best friend is because they’re quite simply good to have around.
Over the years, humans and canines have grown a very special relationship that works well for both sides. Dogs get love, shelter, food and a safe place to live. We get company, affection, loyalty and dedication.
It’s a win-win situation for both parties, and that’s why we love each other so much.
There is no other animal on the planet that we have quite the same relationship with. It’s clear to see we both get so much out of being in each other’s lives.
It’s literally the best feeling when you come home after a hard day, and there’s a big waggy tail there to greet you.
Every time we return home, dogs show their love by jumping for joy and being so happy that we’ve come back to see them.
You can tell you’ve got a special connection when you go away for a few days and your dog is over the moon when you come back.
Dogs will do incredible things for their family (or pack).
They’ve been known to rescue their owners from all sorts of sticky situations and put themselves in danger just to lend a hand (or paw).
Part of the reason our bond with them is rock solid is because we know that when it comes down to it, they would do anything to protect us.
It’s clear that dogs have a zest for life. They take each day as it comes and enjoy every little moment.
Maybe part of the reason why we have such a close relationship with them is because they inspire us to live our best lives. They teach us to live in the moment and appreciate time with our family.
Dogs aren’t as complicated as humans. Once they love us, it’s going to be forever. And they love us without judgement or pressure.
They are just there, always, wagging their tail showing us just how much we mean to them.
And for us humans, to be loved by an animal no matter what we do, what mistakes we make or how we act is so special. Your dog doesn’t care if you lose your job or do something you regret, they just carry on loving you.
According to a recent survey published in the journal Nature, dog owners are more likely to be healthier overall because of their increased level of activity.
Having a pup means we have to take them out for regular walkies and that benefits us as well as our doggy companions.
Other research also suggests that women sleep better when they cuddle up next to their dogs, rather than another human. So the next time you’re suffering from insomnia, cuddle up with your pooch instead!
When you’re going through a hard time, it can help to have a dog around. Humans have an extra special bond with their pooches because they are there no matter what you’re going through.
Sometimes when times get tough you don’t want human contact, all you want is to curl up on the sofa with your furry friend.
Dogs don’t abandon us, they stick by our side through thick and thin. Research has also found that dogs can help reduce stress levels and boost productivity at work.
Whilst some dogs may have been used to help protect livestock, over time humans have come to recognise their ability to keep us safe, too.
Many people have a dog for protection as well as company. Check out this list of the best guard dogs to see which one could be right for you.
Humans have bred dogs to do lots of different jobs. Different breeds have different skillsets, from collies herding sheep and labradors guiding the blind to today’s medical detection dogs.
Who knew when we first made friends with wild dogs that eventually they’d be detecting medical conditions like seizures and cancer?
The range of skills dogs have is quite extraordinary and yet another reason why we value them so much.
If you own a dog, it’s important to ensure that they’re covered by adequate dog insurance - just in case they fall ill or get injured.
Get a dog insurance quote online today and find the right level of cover for your best friend.