Dogs have long been considered "man's best friend," and they have certainly earned the title. The bond between humans and canines is unmistakable. Since the domestication of the dog, people have been drawn to them (and they to us). Dogs have helped us in so many ways and expect little in return. They have hunted with us, kept vermin and pests away, served the military and police, assisted the disabled, and faithfully remained our loyal companions.
In turn, we care for them and provide them with a good quality of life. This is more than a fair trade. In fact, it is a downright bargain. How did this bond become so strong? What can we do to preserve and strengthen it?
A Brief History of the Domesticated Dog
The mysterious history of dogs has been revealed primarily through archaeological research. Evidence of prehistoric dog-like creatures shows us that the evolution of the dog can actually be traced back millions of years. The transition of some wolves into dogs probably began upwards of 100,000 years ago, but the domesticated dog likely dates back anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 years. Some believe that humans set out to domesticate dogs by "breeding" for specific traits, though this may not actually be the case. By nature, dogs are scavengers, so one theory suggests that dogs began to follow human hunters for food. Regardless of how it all started, the human-canine bond has blossomed and strengthened over time and will likely continue to grow.
What Dogs Do For Humans
Companionship is perhaps the most obvious thing that dogs give us, but this is only the beginning. Scientific evidence has proven that many health benefits come along with pet ownership. Our dogs help us relax, lower our blood pressure, keep us active and more. Dogs happily work for us, too.
Service dogs can assist those with mental or physical disabilities, work as search-and-rescue dogs, guard valuable property and protect us from harm by sniffing out threats and criminal activity. Even our companion dogs can be trained to proudly defend our homes and families.
What's In It for the Dogs
The domesticated dog has evolved to be quite dependent upon humans. Though dogs can still often survive in the wild, they thrive with the care humans can provide. All we really need to do is look out for our dogs' best interests. We must be responsible dog owners and fulfill their basic needs: food, shelter, health care and so on. We must train them so they understand their jobs (and they find joy in that). It is truly a win-win situation.
Preserving and Strengthening the Human-Canine Bond
The bond you have with your dog begins the moment he comes into your life and never stops growing. However, there are ways to reinforce the bond throughout your dog's life. Participation in activities with your dog is the best way to do this.
It can be as simple as a training session, grooming routine, playtime or exercise. For more structured bonding, you can join an obedience class, start training in dog sports like agility and flyball, or participate in dog shows. One of the kindest ways to bond with your dog and allow your dog to bond with others is to get involved with animal assisted therapy. If your dog is right for therapy, he can visit people in hospitals and nursing homes or help children read and learn. Your dog may be able to help benefit the health and lift the spirits of people in need, all while having the time of his life. No matter how you strengthen and preserve the human-canine bond, remember that it benefits the health and well-being of both you and your dog.