Why dogs are humans’ best friends?


  • Author Laura Iesse
  • Published November 30, 2021
  • Word count 1,281

The friendship between dogs and humans has ancient origins and was born spontaneously when wolves approached our species in search of food resources with a lower expenditure of energy. This millennial relationship continues to the present day and the relationship has become more and more solid.

"The dog is man's best friend". We have always been used to using this definition and thinking that it is "normal" to live with him and that he is part of our life. But how did this friendship start? How far back must we go in time to understand what is the path that dogs and humans have made together in the course of history?

In recent decades, theories on dog domestication have changed a lot and, in some cases, have completely revolutionized what has always been believed. In fact, man has always been considered the only and absolute protagonist of this process and a passive role was attributed to the dog. The most common theories were that some wolf adults had been captured and subsequently reproduced in captivity, or that they had collected pups and raised them. Among the first scholars to question them, highlighting their gaps and critical points, there were Lorna and Raymond Coppinger with their book “Dogs. A surprising new interpretation of the origin, evolution and behavior of the dog ".

According to their thesis, the domestication process is not based on a direct action towards the wolf but, more generally, on the environment: the abundance of food coming from human settlements in the form of leftovers, would in practice create a new ecological niche suitable to be occupied. In other words, some wolves would have spontaneously approached us for the possibility of finding food resources with a lower expenditure of energy. These subjects would then begin to reproduce independently from each other giving rise to a new subspecies different both for physical and behavioral traits. In particular, the most relevant feature was that of having a shorter "escape distance". This means that the first dogs, although not yet properly domesticated, tolerated the proximity of human beings more, tended not to run away from their sight and took a short time to get closer.

The first great alliance

However, before talking about friendship, there is still a question we need to ask ourselves. Why have we accepted this presence? Having a diet partly similar to ours, the dog could have been considered a competitor, chased away or even preyed upon.

In reality, it did not behave as such and on the contrary it probably showed characteristics of some usefulness. But, although we have always thought first of all to guard and protection activities, or to aid in hunting, in reality probably the first great task that the dogs took on and which turned out to be important was linked to their role as "scavengers", who cleaned up waste in our settlements. In societies such as those of 15,000 years ago (or perhaps more), where there were no sewers or other disposal facilities, the accumulation of waste and biological remains around the camps could prove dangerous both from a health point of view and in attracting others potentially dangerous animal species. Those societies that therefore accepted the presence of dogs could have a concrete advantage in health and safety.

One of the first reasons for this ancient friendship, then, could be based more on the eating habits of this species than on other performative skills.

Workmates, but not only

Once it became a regular visitor to our villages, an accepted presence, the dog was not only able to show us all its qualities and intelligence, but it can be said that it has contributed to change us and change the course of our history. And in fact, between 15 and 40 thousand years ago, the dog was the first ever to make us understand that coexistence with different species was not only possible, but even advantageous. All the others came thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of years later.

In the current technological age, where we have machines for any purpose, we tend to forget the importance of domestication. However, it would be enough to think that some species have speeded up transport, favored trade and connected distant peoples to each other; others have made it possible to cultivate large plots of land and feed entire populations; still others to be able to cover and warm up in the coldest climates. In short, much of our progress depends on domestication.

In this process the dog not only acted as a forerunner, approaching us spontaneously and showing us not to be dangerous, but he accompanied us by staying by our side and in many cases providing us with precious help. He helped us in defense, in hunting, in leading the herds to pasture and in protecting them. In short, he did not behave simply as a friend, but as a member of a group, in which to take on a role, tasks and for which to sacrifice himself if needed.

And today?

This millennial relationship continues to the present day and, although modern life is very different from that of our ancestors, the bond with dogs does not seem to have weakened. They have come to live in cities and in our homes; they come with us to many places and even on vacation; we dedicate part of our time to them by purchasing increasingly targeted services: from the veterinarian to the educator, from sports to leisure activities. But how has our relationship with this species evolved? Even if those activities that they have carried out for millennia are no longer so widespread, dogs have been able to readjust themselves to our contemporary society in many ways and the role they have assumed demonstrates their friendship as perhaps we had never before been able to understand.

New activities

As we refined our knowledge, we learned how to teach them extremely complex activities. These range from social utility in assistance to civil protection in rescue and search, or in the army and law enforcement. In these activities our friends give us every day proof not only of their incredible intelligence and adaptability, but of knowing how to carry out their role as a real mission, demonstrating the self-denial and the capacity for sacrifice that only those who nurture a deep bond are able to prove.

Service Dogs

One of the most important jobs that dogs can take on nowadays, is that of a service dog. There are many types of service dogs, and they all share the same purpose, helping and supporting people with health and/or mental disabilities. Service dogs are trained to use their strong capabilities to perform incredible tasks, such as sensing oncoming seizures and alerting their assisted or others who could help, pushing or pulling wheelchairs, stopping self-harming behaviors, helping discern reality from hallucinations, and the list could go on a while…

What’s most amazing is that many types of service dog can be trained directly at home by their owner, with the help of professional guidance. The bond between the dog and owner helps the training being more effective and successful, and at the same time training together helps tightening the bond and getting stronger synergy.

There are many professionals who provide service dog training services both online and offline, among them Service Dog Training School International which provides online training courses for service dogs, psychiatric service dogs, therapy dogs, diabetic alert dogs and other dog training courses which show us just how lucky we are to have dogs in our lives as our companions, and how much good the bond between our species has brought, is keep bringing and will bring.

I am a dog lover. I strongly believe that pets are an important part of people's lives, providing unlimited love, comfort and fun.

I work for a service dog training school, SDTSI, whose mission is giving the opportunity of benefiting of service dog assistance to all people in need, by providing high quality service dog training courses at affordable prices.


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