Are dogs loyal because of breeding, personality or thousands of years of companionship with humans? The answer: all the above.
It may seem cliché to consider dogs as exceptionally loyal, especially to people – but it’s true. The relationship between dogs and humans is exceptional and contains a rich history of friendship. Let’s examine some of the factors behind dogs’ iconic loyalty and the bond we share with our best buddies.
Dogs are pack animals, and naturally seek alliances with other dogs, people and even other animals. Because pre-domesticated dogs and their wolf ancestors depended on the pack for survival, they’ve developed keen social skills and a desire to establish devoted relationships. Even though they no longer live in the wild, modern dogs still have an instinct for friendship, making them perfect companions.
History with Humans
Anthropological research suggests that dogs and humans have lived together for thousands of years. Though the exact date is unknown, experts agree that people began domesticating dogs before the development of agriculture – around 9000 BC – making dogs humankind’s oldest animal companion.
There’s many theories on how and why canines became domesticated. At the time, dogs and humans shared resources, hunted the same animals, and eventually developed complementary lifestyles. Exactly how domestication started is debatable; what is certain is that dogs have been fine tuning their communicating skills with people ever since. Thousands of years of interaction have made dogs experts in human behavior, specifically reading our body language, facial expressions and daily habits. This has given dogs the ability to empathize with humans on a deeper level, further strengthening the connection between the two species. This shared history and extensive collaboration has contributed to the loyalty we see today.
Mutually Beneficial Relationship
Another reason the dog-human relationship is unique is that it was founded on (and continues to be) a mutually beneficial relationship – dogs received food and shelter, people gained a hunting partner and guard dog, and we both received companionship and affection. This stands in stark contrast from typical animal-human dynamics, where animals are used for their strength, endurance or meat, and receive virtually nothing in return. With dogs, we’ve established a reciprocal relationship in which we are sensitive to their feelings and overall well-being; and they’re sensitive to ours.
In the end, dogs just want to be loved. Like people, they’re looking for affection and someone to share their life with. When we give our dogs the love they're looking for, loyalty is just one of the many ways they love us back.