It’s an age-old question: Why are dogs loyal? Some might argue that it’s just because we give them food and shelter, but any dog lover knows there’s more to it than that. After all, we give food and shelter to hamsters and goldfish. But those animals usually aren’t quite as devoted as dogs. Pooches cry when we leave the house, jump for joy when we come home and live and breath for our affection. So why is this? Exactly why are dogs so loyal to their humans?
Animal experts frequently attribute the loyalty of dogs to a shared history. Canis lupus familiaris and homo sapiens have evolved together. The link between the two species dates many, many years back.
Researchers first theorized that dogs as we know them today evolved from wolves after they began cohabiting with humans. However, more recent studies have found a different conclusion. Experts now believe that dogs split off from their wolf ancestors approximately 135,000 years ago — before dogs or wolves started living with humans.
In fact, archeological evidence, like buried dog bones near human settlements, only really date back 13,000 years. So it stands to reason that the current theory is that wolves evolved into dogs without the help of humans. But once dogs and humans started counting on one another, they became inextricably linked.
Since the early days of becoming man’s best friend, dogs have become emotionally bonded to us. Many dogs pick up on our moods, and can tell when we’re sad or angry. And we understand dogs in return. We can read their expressions and tell when they’re scared, upset or joyful.
Loyalty is also just a natural behavior for dogs. Dogs are pack animals, meaning they are social creatures who prefer the company of other animals. This behavior is a survival mechanism too. Packs succeed because the members of the group depend on one another to survive.
Many dog trainers and other animal experts believe this pack mentality also causes dogs to be loyal to their humans. They think pooches view people as just another member of the pack. So dogs don’t just love a good cuddle — they also think loyalty will keep them alive. In fact, you’ll frequently hear trainers say that during obedience training, you need to assert yourself as the “alpha dog.” If your dog views you as the head of their pack, they’ll follow your lead.
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