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:
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.
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.