Your Dog is a Part of Your Family
People and dogs have a long and unique relationship, one that is unlike our relationship with any other animal. It’s not hard to imagine some prehistoric hunter bringing home an orphaned wolf cub, only to find that it fitted surprisingly well to human society as it grew up. On top of that he would have found it had several very useful contributions to make.
The similarities between the social structures of humans and both wolves and other wild dog packs are striking. There is a hierarchy, usually dominated by an older male, who is often kept on the right track when necessary by a dominant older female. Like a prehistoric human family or tribe would have done, a wolf pack naturally lives and hunts together, surviving through its ability to communicate and cooperate as a group. Just like a human family group, the social bonds and loyalty within the group are uniting forces far stronger than any of the minor tiffs and scraps of daily life.
Now it has to be said that wolves are, by all accounts, difficult to get on with in some respects. Dogs as we know them now are more amenable. But then ancient man (who may not have been all that amenable himself by our standards of today) no doubt achieved that change through breeding long ago – just as we still manipulate the genetic makeup of dogs in an amazing variety of ways even today.
The complementary strengths of dogs, their alertness, their powerful sense of smell and their hunting prowess, no doubt made them welcome members of human hunting expeditions in ancient times. Their low cost of upkeep, as dogs will live on almost anything, including less desirable food scraps, was undoubtedly an attractive added bonus.
This long-standing synergy between humans and dogs remains pretty much the same today. Your dog, whether a guard dog, working dog, hunting dog, or merely a companion, is an intelligent, loyal and faithful friend for life.
The raw primitive survival justifications for owning a dog may be less important now, but dogs are still to be found performing many useful roles. You will find dogs herding stock on farms, detecting drug smugglers in airports, guiding the blind, tracking down criminals, guarding secure installations, rescuing in emergencies and playing to their strengths doing many other important tasks for us. Most dogs, though, are just “one of the family”.
Dogs will often share our living space, and develop a special bond with all the members of a family. You may have noticed how your dog will look concerned for younger family members if they seem to be getting into trouble – moving too far away from the main family group, for example – and we all know how eager the family dog is to check out whether any stranger arriving at the door is OK to have around.
Most of us know dogs as wonderfully cuddly, friendly and fun companions. They are – if they are properly socialized into their family, well fed, housed and exercised, and lead a predictable and stable life. But even a small dog can become unpleasant company, a formidable foe, or even dangerous, if it feels socially isolated, bored, hungry or abused. If a dog senses it does not belong, it’s behaviour can become unpredictable, much as we humans might behave if held captive and in danger among our enemies. Just like us, dogs need to feel secure, wanted and part of their family, and to know their place in our family’s hierarchy.