Why are dogs humans

Why dogs get along so well with people

A stern look - and Fifi guiltily sneaks away with his tail caught. A nod of the head - and Hasso runs with his tongue hanging out to fetch the stick. "It can hardly be doubted that the love of humans has become an instinct in dogs," said Charles Darwin, and every dog ​​owner would agree with him immediately. Today's researchers do not lean that far out of the window, but they too are convinced that there is a relationship between dog and human that is unique - and can only be explained by the long, intensive coexistence.

In particular, when it comes to understanding and interpreting master and mistress gestures, no one can fool dogs - not even chimpanzees, who are after all our closest relatives, reports the magazine “bild der Wissenschaft” in its July issue. For dogs, a brief nod of the head in the direction of a mug with a hidden treat is sufficient as a hint - they understand just as well as one to two year old children what that means. This works even if you walk to another cup but point to the right one. In the case of chimpanzees, only two in eleven manage the same task.

The Hungarian canine researcher Ádám Miklósi is even convinced that this intimate understanding has actually become instinct in dogs, as Darwin would say, i.e. it is genetically anchored and thus innate. After all, so his main argument, even very young puppies react to finger pointing and nodding - in contrast to wolves, who, even when raised by humans, never really understand what they actually want from them. "We are certain that in the course of domestication the dogs have taken over many social-cognitive abilities from humans and that something like a common evolution has taken place," said the US psychologist Brian Hare from the renowned Duke University in a somewhat more scientific way.

Domestication and with it the common history of humans and dogs began at least 15,000 years ago in East Asia, when the original dog evolved from the wolf. Presumably these first dogs were in the vicinity of the human camps - not because they liked people so much, but because there was always something to eat among their rubbish. In humans, the vigilance and hunting talent of the uninvited guests may have aroused interest, and he began to use the animals as guards and hunting helpers. This community of convenience eventually became a permanent bond, not least because the dogs had a talent for adapting to human behavior.

Today they themselves show behavior that can be described as human-like: they maintain lifelong bonds, are talented for cooperation and communication, can imitate others excellently and are less aggressive in a group. Miklósi suspects that this is due to the action of hormones, especially oxytocin
and vasopressin, and brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin. After all, they are also key factors for attachment and aggressive behavior in many other animals, including humans, so why not in dogs too, he states - he has yet to provide evidence.

And four-legged friends are similar to humans in another area - probably even more than they would like: They are plagued by the same diseases. Just like with their masters, cancer, allergies, heart disease and epilepsy are among the most common health problems in dogs, reports "Bild der Wissenschaft".

They are not spared even from mental disorders, be it obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder or ADHD. Here, the mechanism of development even seems to be the same, because in dogs with ADHD symptoms, Miklósi found similarly altered receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, as are also known in humans. This can also be attributed to their long history together - because humans and dogs live in the same environment and are therefore influenced by the same environmental factors and risks.

With so many similarities, it should come as no surprise that the dog takes the place of a family member or even a child for many people - especially when you factor in how much people benefit from the dog: A four-legged companion reduces stress, lowers it Blood pressure and cholesterol levels stabilize the psyche in times of crisis, help to establish social contacts and strengthen self-esteem, studies have shown. Or, as the journalist Ernst Elitz puts it: “Without the dog, people would come to the dog”.

Simone Einzmann: “The human being in the dog” Bild der Wissenschaft 7/2008, p. 86 ddp / Wissenschaft.de - Ilka Lehnen-Beyel
June 24, 2008

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