Dogs play a huge part in millions of lives whether they are family pets, working dogs, service dogs, or dogs that help rescue people who are lost in the mountains. Modern-day dogs seem to be far removed from their wolf ancestors that roamed the Earth thousands of years ago. Dogs are commonly referred to as man’s best friend and there have been several studies that seem to have found multiple reasons why they do seem to fit the bill perfectly when it comes to being the best friend to us that they could possibly be.
They See Us As Family
A study conducted at Emory University in Atlanta seemed to prove that dogs prioritize their human relationships and interactions over food and other dogs. An MRI machine scanned several dogs' brains while they were given things to sniff relating to food, other dogs, and their human family. The reward center of each dog’s brain activated and lit up the most when the dogs were presented with scents of their favorite humans. Prioritizing us over the food they need to survive and interactions with their own species show how much dogs seem to think of us.
Dogs Keep You Healthy
Another study based on dog companionship came to the conclusion that living with a dog appears to have a link to improved heart health. Although owning any pet seemed to be beneficial to overall health and wellbeing, the biggest benefits were seen in dog owners which suggests that dogs actually keep us healthy. The findings make sense in many ways as dogs not only help make us happy and reduce stress, but they also encourage us to do more exercise through walks and general play.
They Learn Quickly and Help Us Learn Too
Most dogs learn new things pretty quickly. This was made clear in an experiment at Yale University. Researchers showed a group of dogs how to solve a puzzle in order to get a treat as a reward. During their demonstration of how to get to the treat, they added in pointless and meaningless steps, but when the dogs attempted to get the treats from the puzzle, they simply ignored these additional steps and only completed the ones that actually led them to their reward. When the researchers repeated a similar experiment with children, they noticed most of the children followed all of the steps, even the ones that had no effect on the puzzle. The results seem to show that humans can be too trusting of information we are given whereas dogs appear to have a better filter that could be useful for us to try and use from time to time.
As early humans domesticated wolves and the human/dog bond began to grow, dogs learned that by sticking with humans and looking out for them, they had easy access to food, water, shelter, and protection. This is something that is now ingrained into dogs' DNA which has resulted in fierce loyalty to humans - even to the point of dogs risking their lives to try and protect their human families.
They Know How We Feel
It looks as though our personalities and feelings have an impact on our dog’s personalities and feelings too. A study that compared cortisol, the stress hormone, in the hair of owners and their dogs found similar levels in both samples which seems to suggest our dogs match their feelings to ours.