Human beings are social animals. From the time our ancestors were swinging through the trees, to our cave dwelling cousins, humans like company. It gives us warmth and a sense of purpose and communication outside ourselves makes us communicative and empathetic.
When humans started domesticating wild animals thousands of years ago things changed drastically forever. Suddenly we had literal horse power to travel great distances at speed and large animals to help us plough the fields which led to the building of civilisation. What we also acquired approximately 12000 years ago in Southwest Asia was our faithful, and some say, our best friend of all. A friend to guard and herd our animals, to warn us of any danger to our family and home and, perhaps more importantly of all, to be our companion. I am talking, of course, about the dog.
Modern humans in Western civilisation have moved on a great deal since then. Animals are no longer a necessity for our survival so we now keep them as pets. A relationship with any animal can be extremely powerful but I would argue that a human’s relationship with a dog is totally unique in the animal kingdom.
There has been extensive research in this area and the evidence is overwhelming: dogs are good for us! Getting a dog is a huge responsibility and is akin to raising a child. Dogs rely on us for guidance, security, companionship, food, stimulation and, of course, love. With this in mind, having a dog makes us automatically more responsible, active, thoughtful and loving. You could go as far as to argue that dogs make us into better individuals. There are countless tales of dogs going into burning buildings or waiting at the grave for a deceased owner. These anecdotes perfectly illustrate the connection which runs much deeper than a dog only doing things for us because we are their “masters”.
Another aspect to this is that dogs serve as a mirror for our own shortcomings. If we are often angry, nervous, frightened, aggressive etc, these traits are amplified in our four legged companion and before you can say “Jack Russell” you have a dog with exactly the same issues. It is vital for a dog owner to be aware of the effect they have on their dog. This makes us more empathetic and responsible. Two of the most important human traits.
Studies have also shown irrefutable evidence that as well as making us better at being human, dogs also have a plethora of positive effects on our physiology. Dogs need walking so that is a great way for increasingly sedentary humans to get more exercise but it doesn’t stop there. Having a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol and petting your dog increases oxytocin which makes us feel good. It also lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels which is key to the health of your heart.
In an increasingly anonymous world dogs provide that consistency and unconditional love that is lacking in society as we become less reliant on real connection. Dogs give us a glimpse of the best version of ourselves.
I'm a writing editor, media director, ghost copywriter and gonzo journalist.