After a long day of work or running errands, there's a familiar scene that many of us dog parents look forward to.
The moment we walk through the front door, our loyal canine companions greet us with a wagging tail and excited energy without failure. Even if we've only been gone for 20 minutes, it's as if we've been gone for months in their eyes.
This unwavering affection and loyalty from our dogs brings a sense of comfort and happiness into our lives. So today, we're going to explore a question that's captured the hearts and minds of pet owners for centuries: why are dogs so loyal to humans?
Let's dive in.
The evolutionary basis for dog loyalty
Dogs' loyalty to man traces back to their evolutionary journey.
Domestication of wolves
While the scientific community continues to debate the precise origins and timeline of the domestic dog, most agree that it began somewhere around 10,000 to 40,000 years ago.
Pet experts generally agree on the how and why of wolf domestication, unlike the where and when. But you might be surprised to learn that the wolves actually came to us rather than the other way around.
In other words, wolves quickly discovered that hanging around humans and their hunter-gatherer tendencies could be quite rewarding. They enjoyed munching on the tasty leftovers near campsites, particularly when hunting for their own meals proved challenging.
Over time, friendly wolves were welcome in the camp while aggressive wolves were shooed away. From there, selective breeding led to the development of traits like friendliness, loyalty, and obedience in wolves — eventually giving rise to the diverse dog breeds we know today (yes that's right - your Frenchie was once a wolf!)
Co-evolution with humans
And, as they say, the rest is history. Dogs and humans evolved together, forming a unique bond and a mutually beneficial relationship.
Dogs provided protection, hunting assistance, and companionship to humans. And humans offered food, shelter, and care to dogs.
Through this, dogs became better social and communicators, understanding human emotions and cues.
The science behind dog loyalty
Beyond the evolutionary history of dogs and humans, some scientific insights also shed light on the strong bond between our two species.
One key factor in canine loyalty is the role of hormones — specifically oxytocin, commonly called the "love hormone." Studies have shown that oxytocin levels increase in both species when dogs and humans interact, strengthening their bond.
In addition to oxytocin, other hormones like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin rise during positive interactions between dogs and humans. These hormones contribute to feelings of happiness, pleasure, and attachment, further solidifying dogs' loyalty toward their human companions.
It's also thought that the bond between dogs and humans is similar to the attachment bonds found in caregiver-infant relationships. One example of this behavior is when a dog seeks closeness to their human companions to cope with stress.
On the flip side, when their beloved human isn't around, dogs can display behaviors that show they're experiencing separation-related distress. Having a human around can lessen the impact of a stressful situation for a dog, showcasing the "safe haven" aspect of attachment theory.
In other words, as much as we rely on our dogs for happiness and stress relief, our dogs depend on us to provide the same comfort. Could they be any more precious?
How to strengthen the bond with your dog
Isn't it amazing how dogs are known for being such loyal sidekicks? And that's a trait deeply rooted in their evolutionary history.
But we can also help strengthen the bond to make it more special. The key is to truly understand your dog and show them you're a reliable and trustworthy partner.
If you're ready to take your bond with your furry companion to the next level, here are a few ways to increase your dog's loyalty.
1. Understand your dog's needs and preferences
As humans, we express ourselves through body language. Well, dogs do the same.
Pay close attention to your pup's posture, facial expressions, and tail movements. A loose, wagging tail might say, "Hey, I'm happy!" but a stiff, raised tail could mean, "Uh-oh, something's not right."
Responding to their cues will show your dog that you've got their back, earning you their trust and loyalty. And don't forget that different breeds have unique characteristics.
For example, Border Collies love to herd, while Beagles live to sniff. Doing homework on your dog's breed will help you understand them better and show them you're committed to their happiness and well-being.
Speaking of well-being, our soulful sidekicks can significantly benefit from eating high-quality food. From lowering the risk of disease and improving cognitive function, there are dozens of reasons to switch to fresh dog food.
But wait. Before you dash off to your kitchen to cook a delicious meal for your pup, let's ask an important question: what makes dog food healthy?
Thankfully, plenty of organic and local brands offer fresh dog food with a perfect balance of nutrients for every type of dog. Some of them even offer same-day delivery right to your doorstep. What's not to love? Convenience and a healthy pup.
2. Enforce consistent and positive training
Dogs thrive on routine. So, setting up a consistent training schedule will help them feel secure and happy. Try to find a regular time each day to go on walks, eat meals, and have some downtime.
When it comes to training, positive reinforcement works wonders. Reward your pup with treats, praise, or playtime whenever they nail a command or show good behavior. They'll be eager to please you and learn even more when they know there's a fun reward waiting for them.
Dogs also appreciate knowing the rules. So be consistent and clear with your training session expectations. If you establish a rule of no dogs on the bed, stick to it. And, of course, be patient.
Clarity helps your dog understand what you want and will happily strive to achieve these goals.
3. Engage in fun and interactive activities
Who doesn't love playtime? Mix things up by trying out various games and activities with your dog.
From fetch to tug-of-war, find what gets their tail wagging and enjoy the laughter and joy that comes with it. The more you play, the more your dog will associate you with fun and happiness, building that unbreakable bond.
Is your dog a smarty-pants? Puzzle toys and interactive games will keep them engaged and entertained. And a treat is usually involved.
4. Prioritize quality time and affection
Cuddle time is the best time, right? Make sure to set aside moments each day for some good old-fashioned snuggles and pets.
These cozy interactions will deepen your bond and reassure your dog that they're your favorite cuddle buddy. And when you're spending time with your dog, really focus on being in the moment.
Put your phone down, forget your to-do list, and enjoy your time together. Your dog will appreciate your full attention, and you'll both benefit from the connection and relaxation that come from being truly present.
And if there's one silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's this: work-from-home jobs. In fact, studies show that Americans are willing to take a 10% pay cut to land a remote job and spend more time with their dogs.
With no commute and a flexible schedule, it's well worth it for more opportunities to share those precious moments with your curious copilot. And if you don't currently have a remote job but want to jump on the bandwagon, a simple online job search will lead you to a variety of open remote positions.
For instance, companies are always looking to hire a contractor to help with a new marketing initiative or accounting project. You'll be surprised at how many lucrative remote job opportunities exist today.
And whether it's taking breaks for playtime, going on long walks, or enjoying each other's company while you work, your dog will love having you around more often. And let's be honest, who wouldn't want to spend their workday with their loyal pup by their side?
5. Provide a comfortable and safe home environment
Everyone needs a place to call their own. Your dog is no exception. Set up a comfy and inviting area where your dog can relax, sleep, and feel secure.
Think about adding a soft bed, a few favorite toys, and a cozy spot in the room. For a personalized touch, create a beautiful collage with your favorite pictures of your dog to hang on the wall and showcase your special bond. These small details matter.
Oh, and remember to dog-proof your home. Secure electrical cords, store chemicals, and keep medications out of reach. The idea here is to make sure your dog can't get into any mischief.
As we mentioned earlier, dogs are sensitive to their surroundings. Keep the vibe in your home as calm and consistent as possible. Avoid loud noises and abrupt changes in routine and be mindful of your dog's stress levels.
The more relaxed and predictable their environment, the better. Remember, a happy home leads to a happy dog. And a happy dog leads to an unbreakable bond.
There's no doubt that dogs truly are our loyal and loving companions. Dogs make the world a better place, and giving your pet a good life is never a waste of money or time.
Remember, the more love and attention you give to your dog, the deeper your connection will grow. So, go ahead and shower your canine companion with all the love they deserve, and enjoy the beautiful, lifelong friendship that blossoms.
Guillaume is a digital marketer focused on handling the outreach strategy at uSERP and content management at Wordable. Outside of work, he enjoys his expat life in sunny Mexico, reading books, wandering around and catching the latest shows on TV.