Dogs, a subspecies of the gray wolf, are the first domesticated animals and have been the most widely kept working, hunting, and pet animals in human history. Fossil remains of dogs and wolves from Belgium, Ukraine, and Russia tentatively date domestication from 14,000 to 31,700 years ago, according to mutation rate assumptions. The dog’s value to human hunters-gatherers led to them quickly becoming useful across all cultures. Dogs perform several functions for humans, such as hunting, herding, pulling loads, protection, assisting enforcement, companionship and aiding the handicapped.
There appears to have been a symbiotic relationship between early humans and wolves. Wolves benefited from humans upright gait to see potential predators or prey through a larger range of view, use of tools for bringing down bigger prey and the control of fire for a plethora of reasons, i.e. warmth and mating. Dogs aided humans with improved sanitation around camps by eating food scraps, provided warmth to humans in extremely cold temperatures, and alerted humans to predators or strangers through there acute hearing and sense of smell. A 2004 study shows that hunter groups with dogs faired much better in cooperative hunting than the groups without dogs.
Humans and dogs have the most prevailing relationship or bond between differing species. Dogs were kept as pets for companionship. With suburbanization’s increase after World War II, the dog population skyrocketed. Dogs were kept outside as guard dogs, hunting dogs, children’s playmates or companions. Today the pet dog’s role has changed within the family. Dogs are more integrated in day-to-day family activities affecting their personality and behavior, thus broadening the concept of family and home. The wolf pack has changed to include humans. The owner defines what role their dog plays in the family, protector, newspaper fetcher, guard to inform owner of guests or an intruder.
Noting that domesticated dogs have a keen understanding of their surrounding’s social hierarchy (i.e. he who feeds me is boss); dogs clearly understand who is included in the family hierarchy. Once a person joins the family, dogs will defend at all costs. As depicted in this video , the pregnant mom is protected incessantly by the family dog when a man attempts to touch her stomach. Dogs definitely know who is family and most would not hesitate to put themselves in harms way to protect one of their own. Some dogs may have such a strong instinct to protect their family members that it causes unnecessary aggression towards others. That is why it is encouraged to hone the dog’s guard instinct early and often through regular training. Without this, a dog may attack children or adults outside the immediate family.
Domestic dogs are smart. They are able to learn in a number of ways, even through simple reinforcement and by observation. Dogs go through a series of stages of cognitive development when dogs learn to interact intentionally with objects around it within 8 weeks of age. Puppies learn behaviors by following examples of older dogs. Dogs also learn through mimicking human behaviors. For example, a trainer places a box in front of a puppy and to retrieve the ball in the box, the trainer presses a lever to allow the puppy to play with the ball. After noting that the ball appears after the lever is pressed, the puppy was left alone with the box and quickly picked up that pressing the lever would allow the ball to be released so he could play with it.
According to researchers, some breeds make better guard dogs than others. Breeds that are lazy or too friendly may not respond to dangerous situations as more attentive breeds. Herding dogs know to keep the pack together by any means necessary. Some dogs may not have the patience or restraint to be a good guard dog. The breed is not as important as early and frequent socialization and effective training. This does not need to be specialized training. The average, good dog behavioral training is all a dog needs to be an effective guard dog and their natural instincts will do the rest. Based on the history between humans and dogs, the dog is man’s ultimate best friend.