Why The Connection Between Humans And Dogs Is So Strong

Why The Connection Between Humans And Dogs Is So Strong

You may understand canine communication better than you might realise, and while you are not fluent in dog language, if you were to inhabit a world exclusively populated by dogs, you'd likely excel at deciphering them. You can most likely distinguish a nervous yip from a menacing growl, discern a friendly bark from a dismissive one, and interpret a dog’s body language when it conveys happiness, sadness, weariness, or fear. It's the type of language you've effortlessly absorbed, much like your own spoken language, without any conscious effort, simply because dogs have always been a part of our world.

Consider this: can you easily identify what a happy bird looks like or a sad lion? Probably not, but you do possess an innate understanding of dog communication, and the unique bond between humans and dogs is evident in this natural, unspoken connection, and while we do coexist with other animals, our relationship with dogs is unique.

But what underpins this special connection? It's not enough to attribute it solely to a historic symbiotic relationship, when dogs would hunt and herd for us in exchange for warmth and sustenance.

Dogs And Humans Together Throughout History

The origin of the bond between dogs and humans goes back many millennia, with the earliest archaeological evidence of humans and dogs buried together dating back to 14,000 years ago, and some unverified findings suggest an even older connection than that. These discoveries are significant, and they show us that humans and dogs have coexisted for many years, and chose to rest together in the afterlife, which in itself is profound in its significance.

Interestingly, our cross-species connection was a product of the tiniest genetic lottery. Dogs and wolves share a staggering 99.9% of their mitochondrial DNA, rendering the two species nearly indistinguishable at this level. However, scattered throughout the genome, there exist a handful of genetic fragments that wield significant influence. Researchers have identified three genes in dogs that are responsible for hyper-sociability, and they are located in the same region as the genes associated with sweetness and social bonding in humans.

Our ancestors may not have comprehended the concept of genes, but they did recognise that certain midsize scavengers with elongated snouts, which ventured near their campfires, exhibited a distinct attentiveness and a compelling, affectionate neediness. Consequently, they extended a welcome to these select individuals, and over time, they bestowed upon these creatures the name "dogs." Meanwhile, their close relatives who lacked these endearing traits, such as wolves, jackals, coyotes, or dingoes, were left to navigate the unforgiving wilderness that they were born into.

As humans transitioned away from their primal existence, the bond which they shared with dogs might have easily unravelled, as there was a decline in the need for working dogs. Even so, humans continued to provide dogs with food and shelter, and our affection for them had grown so much by that time that this equation mattered very little.

Our language bore witness to the depths of our affection for dogs. The term "puppy" is believed to have evolved from the French word "poupée," meaning doll, and human folklore is filled with canine characters. Africans celebrated Rukuba, the dog who bestowed fire and the Welsh recounted the tale of Gelert, who rescued a prince's child from a wolf. Aaristocrats began featuring their family dogs in portraits, while wealthy eccentrics extended their canine companions the honour of inclusion in their wills.

Dogs And Humans Today

In contemporary times, dogs reign as Earth's most abundant terrestrial carnivores, especially in human-populated areas. The global dog population stands at around 900 million, and the once single dog species canis lupus familiaris has splintered into hundreds of breeds, each selectively bred for attributes like size, temperament, colour, or attractiveness.

The typical Australian dog owner spends over $3,200 annually on their pet, with expenses ranging from food and toys to medical care, and some individuals would readily pay a much higher price than that for their cherished companions.

And what began as a pragmatic pact between two vastly different species has blossomed into something akin to love, and while this could seem irrational, it really doesn’t matter, as it's within our hearts that dogs reside.

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