History of The Domestication of Dogs: Are Dogs our Companions or Are We Their Companions?

History of The Domestication of Dogs: Are Dogs our Companions or Are We Their Companions?

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Humans and dogs have been pals for what seems like forever. However, all relationships have to start somewhere, and this relationship is no different. From the beginnings of domestication to where we are today, how we have adapted dogs to our needs and how dogs have adapted us to their needs is a story that sounds fictional. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We call them Man’s Best Friend for a reason--we artificially created them to become our best friends, and they created the mannerisms we use today.
It was further hypothesized by father-son team S.J. Olsen and J.W. Olsen (1977) that the domestication of dogs started in China. They proposed that, starting with a small subspecies of wolf, humans changed it into the modern Chinese/Mongolian subspecies of Canis lupus chanco. There is another hypothesis that even Cro-Magnons may have domesticated some breeds of dog. A piece of a dog’s right jaw was reported from a Cro-Magnon site (Nobis, 1979); the jaw was dated back to 14,000 B.P. No matter what conflicting sources say specifically, we know that dogs were domesticated before 15,000 B.P. and that they originated in Eurasia. They did in fact cross the land bridge with us to the Americas (J.A. Leonard, 2002), which means that they had a large role in influencing us and helping us to settle in the new world. Now we have a general idea of when domestication began, but the next question is why? Why did we make wolves into our buddies? Why not chimps or some other kind of primate? The answer lies in a few different reasons.
Our old pals, even going back to Canis lupus, the gray wolf (the original ancestor of most modern dogs), have human-like qualities. Wolves are clever hunters and gatherers, especially the gray wolf. No speci...


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...nd cooperating with each other while hunting, but there’s even more, like having mostly monogamous relationships yet still sharing food and providing parental care for everyone (Schleidt/Shalter, 2003), not unlike a Full House-esque blended family. Contrary to popular belief, this is where we get our similar mannerisms, not the other way around; we learned from dogs. Think about that the next time you try to get Fido to roll over or sit.
Using popular belief, you would probably think that dogs have been our companions for thousands and thousands of years. In reality, the question is this: are dogs our companions or are we dog’s companions? Without a doubt, we have evolved dogs, but have dogs evolved us too? Would civilization be around if it weren’t for dogs? That’s the question I leave you with today. People and dogs, or dogs and people. The chicken and the egg.


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