Why Are Dogs “Man’s Best Friend”?


Depending on the type of person you are when the word domestic pet comes up the first thing usually thought of is dog. Dogs are loyal animals that if treated properly love their owners unconditionally. But why do we consider them “Man’s Best Friend” when they’re just animals?  PBS states that the heritage of dogs traces directly to that of the gray wolf, meaning that many of the biological behaviors exhibited in wolfs are transferred directly to dogs, for example wolfs are primarily pack animals meaning they hunt in packs and are extremely loyal to each other. They use their numbers to survive in the wild and are very feral because it is necessary for their survival, however dogs are also pack animals that have been domesticated, so while they do not have a need for that kill or be killed instinct that is so common in wolves they are still fiercely loyal to those they consider part of their pack i.e. humans.

Likewise according to Psychology Today a study published in the Applied Animal Behavior Science Journal stated that dogs seem to have similar personality traits to their owners. The study was conducted on five major personality traits:

1) Neuroticism- a persons innate disposition towards sensitivity or confidence

2) Extraversion- whether a person is open and social, usually associated with bubbly personalities

3) Agreeableness- how kind or socially inclusive someone is, whether they have a nice/friendly personality

4) Conscientiousness- which determines how proactive a person is in all aspects of life

5) Openness- this refers to the subjects willingness to try new things but according to the journal it also refers to the subjects level of intelligence.


These were all measured in the study by having the dog owners rate themselves in each of these categories and then rate their pets in the same categories. What the study found was each owner rated their pet very similarly to their own personality but researchers understood that there could potentially be some bias involved in what they referred to as “Projection” or the owners translating their own personality traits on their dogs. So to account for this bias the study also took data from other family members having them perform the same procedure in order to get a better estimate of whether or not these dogs really did manifest the same personality traits as their owners. They were shocked to find that in 4 out of the 5 personality traits even the other family members saw similar characteristics in both the dog and its owner meaning that dogs did in fact inhabit their owner’s personality traits. This is another good indicator of why dogs are our best friends, if our dogs inherit our personality traits then we are prone to loving and caring for our animal companions as they are an animal representation of ourselves.

Ibeyi, a Siberian Husky dog waits to be groomed before competing at El Salvador Kennel show in San Salvador, on February 24, 2008. Over 200 breeders of El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica participate in the canine beauty contest organized by El Salvador Kennel Club. AFP PHOTO/Jose CABEZAS. (Photo credit should read Jose CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Not only that but a recent study by NPR shows that dogs understand the human language much better than we previously thought. According to MRI scans of dogs brains they get a surge of dopamine every time a praise is said with positive intonation. Scientists have recently studied dogs brains and have come to the conclusion that dogs process language in the same way that humans do, their left hemisphere processes words while their right hemisphere processes intonation so dogs are actually rewarded by their pleasure pathway every time they are praised by their owners. They only respond to praise with proper intonation though meaning that dogs can actually pick up when their owner doesn’t mean something he/she is saying. For example if the owner said “Good Boy” with a flat tone the pleasure pathway would not respond and there would be no rewarding feeling for the dog. We can conclude from this study that the way we speak to our dogs has a big impact on their levels of happiness and that when we praise our dogs properly they respond in a way that is similar to a human if we were being praised for a job well done. So all in all the take away message should be, treat your dogs right because if you do they will always have your back and they are smarter than you think.



3 thoughts on “Why Are Dogs “Man’s Best Friend”?

  1. Monica Lynn Powell

    That is such a cool study!! It totally makes sense too. Just like how we pick up character traits from our parents, those they could be genetic, dogs pick up character traits from those who raise them. It also reminds me of when you hang out with a group of people for long enough, you might start to talk like them or do similar gestures. It is so cool that this relates to dogs as well! I wonder, and I could never imagine putting a dog or owner through this, but if you were to switch dog’s owner after a period of time if it would then mold to their new owner or stay the same as their old owner. The other thing that comes to mind are those owners that look like their dogs, I wonder how that happens. Is it just due to chance or do we subconsciously pick a dog that looks like us? Here are some pretty cute examples: http://www.viralnova.com/dog-owners/

  2. Sarah Elizabeth Read

    I love that you wrote about dogs! I was just home for the first time this past weekend and one of the highlights was getting to see my chocolate labradoodle. I’ve had a dog for the majority of my life and I would absolutely agree that dogs are mans’ best friends. I was really interested by the study you included that talked about dogs being scanned to learn about brain activity. This got me thinking about using dogs as a form of therapy for humans. Because dogs are so similar to humans and share many of the same qualities with humans, as you pointed out, it would seem as though dogs could be used to help reduce depression levels in humans. I found a study that went into this topic in much more depth, but that discovered that interaction with animals can increase trust and trustworthiness, improve empathy, reduce aggression, promote a positive mood, and so on. You can read more about it here! https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/

  3. Grace Ellen Leibow

    As a dog-owner, I was immediately grabbed by your title and pictures, because I am a huge dog-lover, and have actually wondered why humans and dogs are so compatible. After reading your post, I definitely feel enlightened. However, I feel like a great addition to your blog would be the addition of a bit of research on the history of the dog-human relationship as man’s best friend. I found this really great article, here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/12052798/Dog-has-been-mans-best-friend-for-33000-years-DNA-study-finds.html that actually claims dogs have held the title of man’s best friend for close to 33,000 years, according to a DNA study. The article delves into the study, and the historical evolution of dogs and men. Definitely check it out, it could really add a nice aspect to your post!

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