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Why are Dogs so Loyal?
Dogs are loyal, we know that. They bark at anyone that gets near us, and naturally want to protect us. Unfortunately we can’t count on cats to fend off intruders, but they are great at producing hairballs.
Dogs have been considered more loyal than other pets, say cats. This has been largely attributed to their dependence on human beings especially for food and shelter. In fact, dogs have been known to have very low survival rates without human care.
This begs the question; is this dependence the overall reason why dogs are so loyal? While it could form the basis of where it all started, it has been proven that other factors are also at play.
Think of Bobbie, the dog that walked for over 2500 miles for more than 6 months to go home after he got lost on a road trip or Capitan another one that identified and watched over his master’s grave every night for six months. How likely is it that they were thinking about food and shelter all this time? The most plausible conclusion would be that there is more to a dog’s loyalty than provision of basic needs. Below are possible reasons why the canine fellows are so loyal.
Dogs are our oldest animal companions. We share a history that runs back to around 9000 BC. Their biological clock is also in tune; we both sleep at night and are awake during the day. This has provided an opportunity for extensive interaction through the sharing of resources, experiences and lifestyles. An association like this calls for communication between both parties. It is only normal that both have made tremendous steps towards tuning their communication to suit each other.
As a result of this, dogs can interpret human communication, both verbal and non-verbal to a point of behaving in response to them. For example, it is possible for them to be empathetic to people. Humans have not been left behind either; they can easily understand the different ways in which dogs communicate. This has enhanced mutual trust and loyalty over a period of time.
Provision of Basics
This is where it all started. Before humans and dogs could take their relationship further, human beings would hunt and dogs would follow them to get leftovers of their kill. When humans decided to invite dogs into their homes, they took the responsibility of providing them with food, water and shelter. To date, dogs have a special affinity for members of the family who always refill their bowls and ensure that they have a warm place to sleep!
Unless trained otherwise, a dog’s natural instinct is to bond. They are affectionate and attracted to people. When compared to most other animals and specifically wolves, dogs are considered hypersocial.
Animal behaviorist at Oregon University, Monique Udell and a geneticist at Princeton University Bridget VonHoldt corroborated this by putting 18 dogs and 10 restrained and hand-raised wolves under behavioral observation. After watching how both animals interacted with humans, they concluded that while both drew close to them dogs took their friendliness a step further and exhibited a desire to spend more time with humans.
This was further investigated and attributed to a disruption of gene called GTF21 which causes a personality change in dogs and makes them more social than wolves. Wolves lacked it, which made them aloof and not very social despite having been raised by humans. When people respond with friendliness, they are repaid with fierce loyalty.
Is it possible that dogs treat humans as members of their pack? During domestication, dogs literally left their original packs and joined others, only this time, the packs comprised of human beings.
As an unwritten rule, members of a pack are loyal to and depend on each other for survival. A dog is therefore likely to associate his human companion with survival especially if the human offers leadership and comes out as the alpha dog. Fortunately, they don’t take it for free; they give protection, affection and loyalty in return
Animals were domesticated to fulfill certain needs. Dogs were taken in to provide security and as hunting companions but they gave more than that. Most other animals receive nothing in return for what they provide apart from what is necessary to keep them strong and productive. Dogs on the other hand receive affection and companionship in return for giving the same to their human companions. The reciprocal bond is beneficial for both and loyalty is a dog’s way of saying ‘thank you’.
Amount of Time Dogs Spend with people
Among different pets adopted by human beings, dogs spend the most time with them. Think of walks, jogs and trips. Statics show that 78% of pets that accompany human beings for trips of 50 miles and above are dogs.
This has been made even easier by amenities such as parks, hotels and beaches that allow dogs. To date, several airlines allow people to travel with their dogs. This close interaction is bound to bring about some loyalty exchange.
The ‘love Hormone’
Love goes hand in hand with loyalty. Did you know that dogs are capable of loving? A study done by Scientists at the Claremont Graduate University in California proved that animals release oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ in intimate situations. This chemical is responsible for intimate bonds formed between humans.
During the study, the oxytocin levels in dogs increased when they were left to interact with human beings that they liked. This means that when your pooch keeps on following you or snuggling next to you, he/she could just be feeling lovey-dovey.
It is no contention that dogs are loyal to humans in ways that no other animals are. While dependence on human beings is one of the reasons, others revolve around their genetic make-up, personality, pack behavior, history of domestication and the prolonged length of time that dogs usually spend with humans.
Many words in variations of great, loving, affectionate, friendly and so forth are used to describe dogs; but the same can be used for other pets. Only one is in a category of its own; ‘loyal’. As a matter of fact, few fellows in the animal kingdom can stand to be counted in this category. Dogs being one of them. Mans best friend after all.
If you have a story about your dog and a situation where they were loyal or protective, we’d love to hear it. Let us know in the comments!