Your Why did dogs become man’s best friend? The Ultimate Guide

Humans offered wolves a reliable food source; tame wolves provided physical warmth and acted as early warning sentries when strangers or predators approached.

Dogs are not only man’s best friend; they are also his oldest one. Although historians agree that dogs were the first domesticated animal, there is debate on how long ago and where the friendship began.

The animals that accepted this relationship evolved into more and more obedient companions until, many generations later, we had domesticated dogs and their feral gray wolf forbears died out.

And there was a pay-off when man and tame wolf became a dynamic hunting duo. Humans’ skills and savvy combined with wolves’ speed and sense of smell turned them into complementary partners who tracked, captured and devoured prey to their mutual benefit.

Based on DNA evidence, most researchers believe that the furry, warm-nosed companion beside you descended from a group of gray wolves that has since became extinct. Those canny canines figured out that if they hung with early hunter-gatherers rather than going it alone, they could live off what they could scavenge from the humans.

The Desire for Close Connections

Studies indicate that oxytocin levels can spike when dogs and their owners stare into each other’s eyes. An increase in oxytocin amounts in dogs is matched by a corresponding rise of the hormone in humans. Researchers have noted that the same phenomenon is not present in wolves. Researchers also indicate that oxytocin may have been essential for mediating the bond that may have started the process of domestication.

The Start of a Beautiful (Centuries-old) Friendship

It’s estimated that about 15,000 to 14,000 years ago, wolves (ancestors of the modern dog) began the transition from wild animal to domesticated companion. While some remained wild (today’s wolves are their descendants), others chose to associate more closely with humans.

As people learned how to live with and train them, these animals began to assume important roles in society and family life — hunting, guarding and even companionship. One sign of this bond that archeologists have identified was burial. During this time, humans began burying dogs much like they would bury their own dead, sometimes even burying them together. Examining these ancient dogs’ remains gave scientists even deeper insight into human-dog relationships. For example, the Bonn-Oberkassel dog’s teeth show that it lived with ailments that would have required human’s care to survive.

Around 8,000 years ago, many people began to abandon nomadic ways in favor of settling down and farming, which made working dogs that herded and protected livestock increasingly important in daily life. Dog evolution was shifting too — dog DNA samples from 8,000 to 4,000 years ago show that they were adapting right along with us. While their wolf ancestors were carnivores, dogs developed the ability to digest starchy foods that were common in human diets!

Survival of the friendliest: How dogs evolved to be man’s best friend | 60 Minutes

SAGAMIHARA, Japan — Dogs became “man’s best friend” thanks to a gene that lowers stress, according to new research. Researchers in Japan say it made ancient canines more relaxed around people, enabling the special relationship to develop over time.

One of the world’s most favorite pets descends from wolves. However, the domestication of the dog has baffled evolutionary experts for decades.

Now, the Japanese team believes they have solved the riddle. Dogs carry two mutations of a gene known as MC2R (melanocortin 2 receptor). It produces the hormone cortisol – nature’s built-in alarm system which releases when someone experiences fear or anxiety.

“These findings imply MC2R played a role in the domestication of dogs, perhaps by promoting lower levels of stress around humans,” says corresponding author Dr. Miho Nagasawa of Azabu University, according to a statement from SWNS.