Did you know that when you pet a dog, your body releases oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a hormone associated with happiness, as well as bonding and affection. Based on that fact alone, it’s clear that the bond between man and dog is special.
But there are other things that make the relationship between canines and humans unique. What are they?
Let’s start at the beginning.
A Mysterious History
Archaeological research shows evidence of prehistoric dog-like creatures roaming the earth millions of years ago.
Of course, these creatures were probably more akin to wolves and certainly far from anything that we would recognize now as the lovable canine sleeping at the end of the bed.
And while there is no definitive date as to when dogs were domesticated, most experts agree it was somewhere around 15,000 to 30,000 years ago.
There are several theories on how this domestication occurred.
Some archaeologists believe that humans made a concerted effort to domesticate dogs by breeding for specific traits.
Others believe that it was more happenstance than that. Since dogs are, by nature, scavengers, they may have started following humans when they went on their hunts.
But dogs are also very social. So it’s possible that some of them may have come around to the cooking fires after the hunt and sought out human company (and maybe a little meat).
Whatever the Case, Man and Dog Bonded
Because dogs have a special way of making eye contact that most other animals don’t, some of them may have slowly won humans over with their hypnotizing gaze. It was these more attentive and needy canines that got a permanent spot around the fire.
So began a love affair that’s spanned thousands of years.
And soon enough, these kinder and gentler creatures came together to breed. Accustomed to growing up around humans, their puppies were automatically domesticated. This made them easy to train.
While early humans initially utilized this love connection to put these trained dogs to work for them, it seems likely that they grew to appreciate and then need the companionship that the dogs provided.
Otherwise, once humans moved out of the wild themselves and became more “civilized,” they would have sent those dogs packing. But they didn’t.
Instead, they kept on providing room and board for these four-legged creatures with seemingly no tangible payoff.
But there was a payoff. It had just become far more subtle.
The Two-Way Bond Between Man and Dog
Who says you can’t buy love?
You give a dog a home, affection, and plenty of grub, and in return, you receive a level of love and loyalty like no other on the planet.
Humans know this. And it’s precisely why they’re so smitten with dogs.
It’s not difficult to see just how deep is our love for dogs.
For example, literature and language reflect this notion. Folk stories and myths from many countries are populated with canines in various shapes and forms.
Meanwhile, the word “puppy” is believed to have come from the French word for doll, poupée. And a doll is an object upon which humans lavish great affection.
It wasn’t unusual for aristocrats to include the dog in family portraits. And wealthy eccentrics even included their dogs in their wills. That’s a serious testament to their love for these creatures.
But while loyalty and companionship are the most obvious things that dogs give us, they have even more to offer.
More Than Just a Loyal Friend
There’s evidence to the fact that pet ownership offers many health benefits. Just the presence of a dog can lower blood pressure and help their owners relax.
The dog doesn’t have to do anything for these to happen. He or she simply needs to be present.
But dogs are also more than happy to work for us. And this strengthens the bond between man and dog even more.
Even though dogs are no longer in the fields herding cows or protecting the chickens from foxes, humans have managed to find new ways for dogs to be useful. Particularly in the past few decades.
Because dogs have such an incredible sense of smell, they’ve long been used in forensics. But that sense of smell can also detect fear, anxiety, and sadness.
This discovery led to the advent of therapy dogs who are able to provide comfort and affection to people who suffer from isolation, depression, or other mental illness that negatively impacts their daily living.
Dogs can also be used to help lead those with impaired senses.
They are also the primary animals used in animal-facilitated therapy (AFT) in hospitals. AFT utilizes certified animals as part of a medical patient’s therapeutic plan to promote a more healing environment.
The presence of these trained AFT dogs can reduce certain psychological symptoms for patients struggling with a variety of diagnoses, including cancer. They can also detect peanut allergies and seizures.
All Hail the Mighty Canine
With such a deep connection between man and dog, it’s no surprise that the dog is the planet’s most abundant terrestrial carnivore. At least in areas populated by humans.
There are now hundreds of breeds of the domestic dog species – giving humans the opportunity to choose their canine based on a number of factors including size, color, and even temperament.
Our love for dogs is so fierce that American dog owners don’t even bat an eye at spending thousands of dollars each year on food, toys, popular products, and medical care for their pooch.
And with the increasing number of natural disasters and pet owners unwilling to abandon their loyal friends, there are now laws in place that require disaster preparedness plans to make accommodations for pets.
It only makes sense.
Dog Is Truly Man’s Best Friend
If you have a dog, then you intrinsically understand the deep connection between man and dog.
It’s what has made the dog such a popular pet for thousands of years.
That’s a track record that’s pretty tough to beat.
And for more thought-provoking articles about ways to live your healthiest life, take a look around our health blog.