June 2011

Canine Human Coevolution: How Dogs Taught Us to be People

Study suggests humans learned collaborative living from lupine companions

A study by Wolfgang M. Schleidt and Michael D. Shalte suggests that we as a species cultivated our most "human" traits thanks to our longstanding companionship with dogs. More than chimpanzees or any other primates, wolves and their domesticated descendants may have taught us how to be human as we understand it today.

Anyone who's observed them in captivity can tell you that chimpanzees are not exactly the kindest of creatures within their familial groups. They live socially, but also competitively, vying for individual control in lieu of collaboration. Very early humans most likely followed similar living patterns. Individuals within the same group would battle for resources, the stronger primates taking food from the weaker ones. There was a distinct hierarchy that favored strong individuals, not strength in numbers. But at some point, we changed our habits. We began to form complex social structures that didn't always exclusively favor the physically strong. After all, we eventually made it to Ancient Greece. This study speculates that this turn in human behavior may have arose from coevolution with canines.

Are You a Dog Fetishist?

Whether I’m at the store or just seeing people toting their dogs around like accessories, I can’t help but feel as if I’m surrounded by dog fetishists… Does your dog really need gourmet “dog cookies,” studded collars, or food that has to be refrigerated? Call me crazy, but my dogs have always been happy with a daily walk, dry kibble and fresh water, and plenty of attention.