According to scientific belief, dogs were domesticated before all other animals. Today, only 20 species of animals are domesticated. You can see more about this below.
There have been many archeological pieces of evidence proving that dogs were domesticated since the Ice Age’s era ended.
The evidence reveals skeletons of dogs in the communities humans resided in as many as 6-12 thousand years ago in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. A domesticated dog’s jawbone was discovered in Germany, and estimated to be 14 thousand years old, meanwhile in the North of Israel, bones of a puppy and an old human were found buried side-by-side and estimated to be 10-12 thousand years old.
In comparison to the other domesticated species, dogs have a special place in human society, and although they have been bred to be hunters, guard dogs, herd dogs, and service dogs, they seem go have a strong psychological effect on human beings. Why is that? What is so special about dogs?
There are several hypotheses as to why humans are especially attached to dogs.
One of them is that there are similar positive feelings developed for dogs as there are for parents and their offspring. These feelings are thought to act as an attachment. It was described in further detail by John Bowlby:
Parents stay close to their children. If they are separated for any reason, they do their best to become close again.
The relationship between parents and their children is different from how they act towards others in the same species. It is a specific relationship that is special to others.
Many of the studies conducted between humans and their dog pets are done using questionnaires and psychological scales. A group of Japanese scientists used a biological approach.
They assume that recognizing individuals is important for a long-term bond to be formed. Research has shown that dogs are able to tell human beings apart. They look at their owners’ pictures for a longer period of time when it is shown to them with a recording of the voice of the owner. As human beings, there is a preferential treatment in behavior towards parents or owners and other species.
In a research study, it was discovered that the heart rate of dogs is increased both during activity and when they play with things they love the most. It decreases when they are faced with strangers and increases with excitement when they meet their owners. This indicates an emotional response and special recognition.
Oxytocin plays a prominent role in the relationship between humans and dogs. It is a hormone that is produced between partners who are mating and also between children and their parents. It is considered the most significant neurotransmitter responsible for attachment. In a research study, it was increased in the urine of the human-dog group with a stronger relationship.
Both the increase of oxytocin and the heart rate of dogs are a biological response most likely caused by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. It may serve to prove that the hypothesis of the human-dog relationship being similar to parent-child relationship. The HPA axis may be similar in dogs and man, explaining why dogs are so easily accepted as family in human society.
There are still many things about the relationship between dog and man that has not been biologically understood yet. However, this study provides some biological evidence that there are special mechanisms involved. It is a stepping stone to understanding the health benefits of interacting with animals, and many other topics.