There are more than 15 million dogs, domesticated over 15,000 years, with more behavioral and physical variation than any other land mammal. Because of the canine’s versatility, companionship, and hard-working nature, their impact on society has cleverly earned them the name, “man’s best friend.”
Early civilizations widely used dogs to help them work and hunt. Over time, the relationship evolved, and canines became trusted herders, protectors, and companions. More recently, dogs’ loyalty and trainability have moved them into roles assisting police, military, and handicapped individuals.
Here’s a look a their heritage, and how their role has evolved to today’s companion animal:
There are many theories to a wolf’s role among humans in the early days. Among them, it’s thought the wolf was used as protection, warmth, and sanitation (cleaning up waste and food scraps).
Domestication of the Dog
As the wolf was domesticated into the dog, humans most likely used their acute hearing to alert of incoming predators, and their strong sense of smell to assist in hunting and gathering. Regardless of the reason for domestication, it is widely accepted that the domestication of dogs played a vital role in developing modern humans.
Dogs as Pets
Domestic dog populations have increased dramatically since World War II. During the 1950’s to 1960’s, the dog’s primary role was still functional—to guard, alert, and protect. After the 1980’s that role significantly changed to an emotional role—to serve as companion animals.
Dogs as Workers
Despite the modernization of the human/canine relationship, dogs have continued to develop their working roles in modern society. Though less often herders, guardians, and hunters, they have taken on new roles as therapy, service, border control, police, military, search and rescue, courier and sled dogs. Their keen senses and trainability have helped dogs adapt to new roles and take on new, extraordinary responsibilities.