The Emotional Bond between Dogs and Humans
Close your eyes and picture your dog. I bet you smiled or maybe even laughed when you visualized your fuzzy best friend. There’s just something about dogs, isn’t there? Dog-people get it. We’re willing to do almost anything and sacrifice almost everything for our beloved pups.
I’m sure when Mike Wise dove into a frozen canal to save his dog, Lolly, he didn’t hesitate to put his life at risk. In fact, when questioned, he adamantly denies that he exercised poor judgment even though he ended up stranded in the freezing cold water just mere minutes away from losing his life.
Pet Owners Consider Their Dogs Their Best Friends
Like Mike, many pet parents consider their dogs their best friends. Most even think of their beloved canine companion as part of the family. Is this because dogs were the first domesticated animal or did dogs become the first ‘pet’ because of their loving, curious, loyal nature? There’s no doubt that dogs make our lives better. So, how did dogs become man’s best friend and what makes dogs as special as we all feel they are?
We are trying to shine a little light on the bond between humans and dogs
First Our Hunting Partners, Then Our Best Friends
Our adorable, lovable, obedient dogs descended from wild wolves. Exactly how wolves went from wild creatures to our pet and companion is often debated. There are two main theories according to NPR. The first suggests that humans began collaborating with wolves while hunting for big game and were eventually trained by people to follow commands, etc. The other theory is that wolves frequented the garage mounds created by ancient people and eventually found their way indoors and into their keepers’ hearts.
But hunting isn’t the only commonality that turned wolves into those warm bundles of fur that keep our feet warm on cool winter evenings. We can all agree that our relationships with our dogs are more than just a symbiotic relationship. Most dog owners no longer need their dogs to help hunt or herd. And dogs don’t need to go above and beyond to please their humans to earn their dinner.
Why Dogs and Humans Get Along So Well
Both dogs and wolves are pack animals. And so are we in many ways. Dogs and wolves lick one another’s faces to say “hi” to their pack members while we politely cheek-kiss or hug to say “hello” to family members. So, we’re not exactly the same, but there are many uncanny similarities in our family structures.
So, what do wolves and dogs have in common with people that make them fit so perfectly into our lives?
- For one, wolf family structures are like ours.
- They work together for a common goal.
- Wolves cooperatively hunt and protect one another.
- Wolves and dogs form an emotional bond with their pack. Their heart rates rise when they see each other again after being separated.
- Wolves and dogs adopt an area as their “home.”
It’s important to note that dogs don’t see us as the same species as them. Dogs know we’re not exactly part of their pack, but studies show the pleasure or reward areas of their brains light up when they smell something that belongs to their owner. It makes sense that our species have formed an unbreakable understanding and bond. People just jive with dogs.
We Are Our Dogs’ Family Members
You can recognize how your dog is feeling. It’s more than just tail wagging. You can tell when his eyes light up. You can also tell when your pup isn’t feeling his best, too. This is because reading dog body language is second nature to us and vice versa!
We feel emotional about our dogs, too. According to Psychology Today, 40% of dog owners consider their dogs part of the family. And our dogs seem to know us better than we know ourselves. How often do you find yourself standing up from the sofa, just to realize your dog has already gotten up and is sitting waiting in the kitchen or by the door?
Dogs also learned to read. When you’re walking your dog, your dog can almost predict if you’re making a left or right, maybe even before you’ve decided which direction you plan on going.
Not only do dogs read our body language to predict where we’re going, but they can also interpret our emotions. Dogs are as smart as two-year-old kids, and like two-year-olds, their parents are their universe. This makes them astute to your emotional state.
Dogs know when you’re happy or sad. They want to make you feel better when you’re sad. A study in Animal Cognition found that dogs react to owners crying by showing they’re ready to please. If you’re feeling down, your dog may climb on your lap or relentlessly lick your face to try to make you feel better.
Our dogs also celebrate in our excitement when we’re happy! Our dogs wag their tails or whole back halves of their bodies when we’re excited. They respond to happy tones in our voices by perking up their ears. Their hearts race when they see us. Luckily, having a dog in your life makes for more happy moments, too.
Natural Canine Therapy: The Physical and Emotional Benefits of Having a Dog
Dogs don’t just make us smile, they improve our overall physical and mental health! Children raised in homes with dogs are less likely to develop asthma. Having a canine companion also reduces blood pressure and increases your physical activity.
Dogs also improve their owner’s emotional health! Some of the benefits include:
- Increased Mindfulness
- Reduced Stress
- Improved Mood
- Enhanced Creativity
- Increased Empathy
- Decreased Depression and Loneliness
- Increased Feelings of Comfort and Safety
One thing is certain. The bond between a dog and his or her pup parents is unique. We love our dogs to the end of the world and back. It’s been this way for thousands of years, and it’s not going to change any time soon. So, don’t hesitate to tell those stories about your dogs to your friends—it’s normal. And when you get strange looks for talking to your dog in public, just explain that dogs can understand up to 250 human words, so there’s a good chance your pup knows what you’re talking about.
Most importantly, continue to love and snuggle your best friend. Continue making unforgettable memories with your dog because you both deserve it!