Dogs

My family has always had an interesting relationship with dogs.  Off the top of my head, I remember at least 10 different dogs my family has cared for in my lifetime, and in the process of raising them, I learned a lot about their behavior and their pack mentality in relation to humans.  It’s really astonishing how similar their natural social order is to the hierarchical systems in human relationships, and it begs the question of weather we imposed this social behavior on them or if their existing sociability allowed us to easily adopt them into a symbiotic relationship.  From what I’ve seen in documentaries about wolves and the evolution of modern dogs, it would appear that, like most questions of this nature, the answer is ‘a little bit of both’.  Given that all modern dogs are derived from a species of wolf genetically most similar to a species native to modern Europe, if one wants to look at the nature of early human/k9 relationships, one would look at them.   In contrast to domesticated dogs, such wild wolves do not easily submit to the authority imposed by human masters and tend towards aggressive behavior, but when looking at their relationships with eachother in nature, the social order they adhere to is visible and familiar.  Largely based on dominance imposed by perceived strength and will to lead, we observe a male-dominated social order where the strong males and their chosen females hold prescience and authority over the rest of their pack.  In training a domestic dog, it is essential to establish a hierarchy of dominance so the dog knows its place in the social order and who in the family is it expected to obey.  Because this position is always one of subservience, it would make sense to imagine that the first dogs domesticated by humans were the most submissive of of their packs.  As the lower-ranking pack members are the last in their packs to eat when there is food to be shared, such wolves would be much more inclined to wait for human masters to feed them scraps from their own dinners, and would have more motivation to seek them out in a period of scarcity.

In exchange for feeding them, dogs would have provided early men with many valuable services, some of which we may find less useful today.  Their keen senses would be very valuable, they would serve to eliminate food waste products, they would bark in the presence of danger to alert their masters, and they could be trained as hunting animals.  As time went on, and humans grew less occupied with keeping themselves alive, their purpose would logically shift from that of a tool to that of a companion, which would inevitably lead to the strange and diverse variety of adorable, baby-faced, fuzzy lap dogs that exist today, as such clearly maladaptive creatures could never survive on their own in nature.  As we selected traits that made dogs more sociable, they became more docile more trainable, and more readily adapting to a submissive role in a social hierarchy, slowly growing the similarities between the social orders of the two species, while wolves in nature remain much more aggressive and unwilling to bend to the will of human masters, retaining their own natural social order.

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