There’s no question that dogs are pretty amazing. After all, they are the only animal that has worked, protected, played, and snuggled alongside us for thousands of years.
Dogs as companions have been a constant throughout much of human history, but researchers are only just beginning to understand how far back this relationship goes, and how it all came to be.
The First Dog?
The undisputed first example, by archeological and DNA evidence, of the modern dog is the Bonn-Oberkassel dog, dating back to around 14,220 years ago. The remains of this dog (the right mandible to be specific) were discovered buried alongside humans during basalt quarrying in Oberkassel, Germany in 1914.
Although the Bonn-Oberkassel dog is the earliest dog “on record”, scientists agree that the domestication of dogs could have happened much earlier. We may never know for sure when this event occurred, but we do know that the bond between humans and dogs developed as a mutually beneficial relationship during hunter-gatherer times. The ancestors of modern dogs (wolves) had the benefit of food and protection, while the human groups had a built-in alarm system to alert them of potential dangers.
Growing and Changing Together
As prehistoric wolves gradually morphed into domesticated dogs, people began finding news ways to utilize the relationship. The Romans used dogs in battle, Egyptians hunted with their dogs (and even mummified some). In the Americas, native peoples used dogs for hunting and protection, and more modern farmers and ranchers employed herding dogs to help with their livestock.
Dogs as Companions
These days, there is little need for war dogs, and we don’t (usually) rely on them to hunt our food, protect us from predators around a campfire, or to pull a sled over a snow-covered hill. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t as important to us as ever! Many modern dogs still have jobs, such as:
- Service dogs
- Therapy dogs
- Police K9s
- Detection dogs (military, police, etc.)
Dogs as companions is surely an exclusively modern concept. As a nation, we are wealthier overall than in any other period in history, and have more leisure time than our ancestors could even dream of. This is likely the reason it’s not uncommon to see dogs dressed in human clothes, or being pushed in strollers, or getting together for dog birthday parties with other humans and their dogs.
A Deep Connection
Despite all of the silly things modern humans do with their pets (pug parade, anyone?), there is a scientific basis for this close connection. Studies show that, when humans and dogs gaze into each other’s eyes both parties release oxytocin, also known as “the love hormone”.
Other studies have indicated that dogs are the only animals that will look in the direction a human points – other animals tend to look at the finger being pointed. This indicates a deeper level of interaction between the two species.
Keeping our dog companions happy and healthy is the goal of most dog owners today. Don’t forget to make sure your best pal is making it to all of their regularly scheduled wellness exams! And as always, don’t hesitate to give the team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital a call if you have any questions or concerns about your pet.