Dogs receive the title of “man’s best friend” for countless reasons. Here are 7 facts about dogs that you may not have known:
1 – Dogs descended from wolves and inherited complex body language from them. These sophisticated forms of canine social communication and interaction may account for the ease at which dogs can be trained, their playfulness, and their ability to adapt so easily to human households.
2 – Dogs were first domesticated in Siberia and Europe about 15,000 years ago, though by some accounts this could have been as early as 33,000 years ago.
3 – In 14th Century England, no one referred to domesticated canines as “dogs”. All dogs then were called “hounds”, while the word “dog” referred to a particular set of Mastiff-like breeds. These “dog” breeds became so popular by the 16th century that the word “dog” replaced “hound” as the common term for the domesticated canine.
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4 – It seems that without each other, dogs and humans would not have been nearly as successful as they have been, in regards to their mutual survival and proliferation. Dogs needed humans and humans needed dogs, which led to the domestication of wolves in the first place. Wolves, and their dog descendants, received many benefits from living in human camps. They were safer, had more access to food, and had a better and safer environment in which to breed and raise their young. Also, because of human tools, dogs could benefit from the hunting of much larger prey. Likewise, humans benefited greatly from having dogs around. Dogs provided sanitation by cleaning up food scraps, they provided warmth (especially on very cold winter nights!), and because of their acute hearing and sense of smell they could alert humans to the presence of predators or enemies. The cohabitation of humans and canines greatly increased their chances of survival. Without each other, humans and dogs might not have been here today!
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5 – According to a 2009-2010 study, 77.5 million Americans own dogs, meaning that about 40% of Americans own at least one dog. Unfortunately, although there are many programs promoting dog adoption and rescuing dogs from animal shelters, only about a fifth of owned dogs have been adopted. The majority of dogs still come from pet stores and breeders.
6 – Dogs have rightly earned their nickname of “man’s best friend” due to their countless roles living and working alongside humans since the very beginnings of human civilization. Dogs have been bred and raised for such varied tasks as herding livestock, hunting, controlling rodents, guarding their human companions, detecting dangerous substances, and pulling sleds and other heavy loads, to name just a few.
7 – Dog and cat owners are known to enjoy better mental and physical health as a direct result of owning pets. Pet owners make fewer doctor and hospital visits and take less medication than non-owners. Dog owners in particular show reductions in various indicators of anxiety when in the presence of their pet dog. Other benefits are gained because of exposure to various microorganisms that are unique to dogs and cats and shared with their human owners. These microorganisms boost the immune system and protect against the development of allergies and certain autoimmune disorders. Dogs are also excellent at providing social support and companionship.
Basically…dogs are awesome.
(images from My Hairless Chihuahua and Focus Dog Training)