Posts Tagged eye contact

Dogs Really Are Our Best Friends

A while back I caught an hour long show on PBS call Dogs Decoded.  The part that caught my attention was a very simple experiment – the researcher would hide a treat beneath an overturned bowl.  The animal would come into the experimental space, she would point to the bowl with the treat.  Here’s the cool part:  when performed with primates, the primates failed.  When performed with adolescent and adult dogs, they succeeded wildly (even puppies did better than the primates and the puppies performed terribly compared to the adult dogs).  To take the experiment even further, the researcher used her eyes only – she looked at the bowl with the treat without turning her head.  The dogs still went to the right bowl.

The program used the term “social intelligence” to describe how the dogs understood the human pointing.  Dogs, like humans, are social animals and like humans are daytime animals.  Dogs sleep at night and hunt during the day; humans sleep at night and hunt during the day; dogs hunt in groups, humans hunt in groups.  We are remarkably similar and we seem to have co-evolved or sympathetically or symbiotically evolved.  Dogs and humans have been living together for something like twelve thousand years; in that time, we’ve domesticated dogs but it’s fair to argue they domesticed us as well.  With dogs at our sides, we were suddenly free to no longer live in terror of predators- they kept watch, and with their superior hearing and smell, they could help us hunt better.  With free time, we could farm, build cities and civilizations.  Dogs and humans live in a complex, symbiotic relationship that is wildly beneficial for both species.

GREGER LARSON: We became much better hunters with dogs. We are more successfully taking down large game, which means we have more food to eat, which means we can have more offspring, which means the overall populations of humans grow.

NARRATOR: Dog domestication may have helped pave the way for a fundamental change in human lifestyle.

PETER ROWLEY-CONWY: It’s hard to see how early herders would have moved and protected and guarded their flocks without domestic dogs being in place. And one has to wonder whether agriculture would ever really have made it as a viable alternative to hunting and gathering.

NARRATOR: Some believe that the influence of dogs on our development was not just important but pivotal.

GREGER LARSON: Dogs absolutely turn the tables. Without dogs, humans would still be hunter gatherers, and without that initial starting phase of dog domestication, civilization just would not have been possible.

And this: Read the rest of this entry »

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