Amazing Connection Between Dogs and Humans

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So after watching Nova: Dogs Decoded I admit that I am amazed and much more impressed with the biological and apparently evolutionary connection between humans and canines. In Nova: Dogs Decoded
scientists around the world show how dogs have evolved the ability to read human emotions from visual cues that rival the intelligence level of chimpanzees. Dogs instinctively know to read a human’s face looking at the left side of the face first to determine emotion (apparently only other humans do this). Dogs are also the only animal that almost instinctively understands pointing at an object that a human is conveying for them to look or get that object.

In no other symbiotic relationship in nature dose “pointing” exist and they tried repeatedly to get chimpanzees to understand when humans pointed at something but they were not able to grasp the concept.

One segment of the show was showing when dogs were “domesticated” and how domestication might have occured, and DNA evidence shows domestication starting around 100,000 years ago which conflicts with archaeological research showing domestication starting at only 10-12 thousand years ago. They show amazingly how wild wolves cannot domesticate just by raising pups from 5 days old and that domestication is something that has to be bred into the species.

In the example, they had wild wolves that were raised from cubs alongside dogs, cats and humans and hand feed. At every stage of the wolves life it was simply not even close to being domesticated, it did not ever look at humans faces or eyes for visual cues, had no ability to understand or care for anything other than its own concern for feed and shelter. When the wolf grew big enough that it was becoming a danger to the family and other pets they had to bring it back to the preserve and return it to its pack where it immediately integrated as if it was never raised elsewhere.

The most interesting study was on how over 50 years foxes were bred to be domesticated and it took only about 7 generations of foxes to breed out the aggressive trait and for foxes to become domesticated. Domesticated foxes even changed physical characteristics as part of the selective breeding for domestication. The lead researcher mentioned that a domesticated fox can make an ideal pet having all the individuality and self sufficiency of a cat with the undying loyalty of a dog. I might want one if they become available for the general public!

The science behind why humans and dogs bond so well was analyzed at a hormonal level and the same hormones that a mother releases when breast feeding a baby are released when petting a dog, the same type of hormone releases for the dog while it is being pet as well. This creates strong bonds at a much more familial level which explains why people consider dogs like family members.

If you are a dog lover or have a fascination about dogs and human interaction, I highly recommend you pick up Nova: Dogs Decoded
. I was utterly fascinated and you can also watch it live on Netflix right now where it is streaming.

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-Justin Germino

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Updated: February 15, 2011 — 6:58 pm