Saying that a dog is a man’s best friend originates from the long-lasting relationship between men and their dogs throughout history. The actual saying is also a common phrase used in almost all languages to explain the way dogs have always been the most loyal friends to their human and the first recorded use of that phrase originates from Frederick the Great of Prussia. But this week we asked ourselves what makes a dog such an amazing companion, and how we came to adopt this animal as our best friend.
A bit of history…
Before the 19th century, dogs were functional, used as hunters and guards. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that dogs were described as friends in recorded writings, and accepted in homes. This social shift is due to the recent discovery of the rabies vaccine in 1869 and other medical advancements making it much safer to have animals within their homes. Not only are dogs the first ever large carnivores domesticated in history, it’s also one of the fastest growing species in the animal kingdom due to its constant genetic changes, due to human influence.
The best guard…
As mentioned earlier, the first clear signs of dog domestication were mostly during the agriculture revolution, for practical reasons such as hunting and guarding a large space of land against predators. But a recent study claims that dogs have been a loyal companion since at least 40,000 years ago. Archeological findings of graves dating back to the Stone age found evidence that they buried dogs with their most valuable goods, showing evidence of special ownerships when having a canine.
Although there is no actual proof of the grooming process of dogs to get them as domesticated as they are today, there are studies showing that the relationship was not always as good as it is today. It’s obvious today that dogs have become dependent on humans to survive, but have they always been like this?
Dogs share 99% of their DNA with wolves; but it is unlikely that they are the same species as dogs exude many emotions, such as care and loyalty, unique to their own kind, that wolves don’t have. Dogs require affection, attention, and everything a human needs to be a prime candidate as a man’s best friend.
But what truly makes a dog so special is also its ability to help humans with everyday tasks, such as walking through a busy street, guiding them to the nearest coffee shop and opening drawers for people with disabilities. Since the 16th century, dogs have been serving the blinds but it wasn’t before the 1970s that the trend of training dogs for people with disabilities flourished. Not forgetting the ones helping fighting crimes. German shepherds, one of the oldest breeds, are most commonly seen as working dogs in the police and are absolutely amazing at it.
We love them because…
Not only are dogs cute, cuddly and good companions when you’re feeling down or on your own, they have a lot of qualities that seem harder for humans to adopt. They don’t hold grudges for example, and won’t be mad at you for a very long time if you tell them off or don’t give them food when they ask. But they will never forget the special bond they share with their owners, like some type of unconditional love you would never be able to get from a friend.
Dogs can also sense your emotions, and therefore read your tone of voice or body language and emulate the same emotions. Have you ever cried in front of your dog? Or been angry? There isn’t a doubt in my mind that your dog won’t identify with your emotions and therefore react to it. But let’s just face it: dogs are awesome whatever they do, whether they do something silly and cute, or whether they decide to sit in the middle of the road to create a very embarrassing situation for yourself. Gosh, we even make movies about them! Who else can’t turn off the TV when you stumble upon Homeward bound or Beethoven?
What we say about our dogs…
“My dog is literally the only reason why I go back home. I get home, give her a big hug, and then go and find my parents.” Sophie, 24.
“I go everywhere with my dog since I got her last year. See, I live in London so I even had to find a job that accepted dogs at work because doggy care is more expensive than my rent!” Silvye, 34.
“I always grew up with a lot of pets around my home. Dogs, cats, fish, we even had birds! But now I seriously can’t wait to move out of London to get my own proper dog,” Stephen, 25.
“Dogs are truly something else, I still remember when I was a kid I thought my dog was the only person in the house that truly understood me, and to be honest I still think I was right,” Ines, 27.
“Losing my dog last year was one of the hardest things that has happened to me in a very long time, so at the moment I don’t feel strong enough to get a new one. The fear of losing it is too scary right now,” Scott, 30.
“My mom used to have a service dog, and she was just so amazing. She would never leave her side, guide her through hectic streets, open drawers for her and even make her smile in the most difficult times. The first time I saw them together I truly understood how much they loved, and needed, each other, ” Elizabeth, 50.
All in all, it’s pretty safe to say that the reason dogs are man’s best friend is that we love them. We take pride in our dogs, trust them enough to play with our children and create bonds with them that are very different from human relationships. But it is still unclear where dogs actually come from, whether they are the wolve’s descendant or cousin, but one thing is sure: that dogs throughout history have allowed us to approach them, groom them and made them our best companion.
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