Man’s Best Friend is more like Man than most people realize. In fact, dogs and human beings share many key psychological traits in common. Like humans, canines feel love and separation anxiety. Dogs have dreams and can develop neurotic phobias. Where they primarily differ from human beings, however, is in their inability to plan strategically for future events and in a compromised ability to remember specific events.
The bodies of dogs and humans alike secrete oxytocin, the hormone that many physiologists believe is responsible for the feeling we call love. Dogs have the emotional capacity of a human child who’s two and a half years old, these scientists say. Dogs feel bereft when they’re separated from the objects of their affection just as we do. Dogs can become neurotically over-sensitized to phenomena such as thunder or fireworks, strangers, the stairs or even car trips. Some dogs exhibit symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, which manifest in excessive grooming behaviors, snapping at flies or tail chasing.
Although dogs can be taught through positive and negative reinforcement, they don’t remember specific events the way that human beings do. In the wild, dogs imitate the behaviors of the dogs around them. They rely much more heavily upon instincts and reflexive behaviors than humans do. Rapid movement in front of a dog’s eyes will often trigger that dog to snap regardless of his or her relationship with you. Excessive barking and jumping are methods a dog may use to relieve stress. A dog may also defecate or urinate to relieve stress even when that dog has been adequately housebroken.
Scientists say that humans began domesticating dogs 30,000 years ago back in the Paleolithic times. By 12,000 B.C., some men were being buried with their dogs, which suggests that these humans valued their canine hunting partners highly. Differentiation of canines by breed first began taking place around 10,500 B.C.
All modern dog breeds are believed to be descended from wolves. The European wolf is believed to be the ancestor of the terriers, the mastiffs and the herding dogs while the Indian wolf is believed to be the ancestor of the sight hounds. Feral dogs, chow chows, and Asian spaniels are descended from the Chinese wolf.