Dogs. So loyal, they allow themselves to be humiliated.
What makes a dog man's best friend? In a recent study, 70 poochless people were asked to match photos of 41 dog owners with the breed of dog they owned: Labrador, poodle or Staffordshire bull terrier. The results? They were right more than half of the time (they should have been right only a third of the time)! Which suggests that when someone says, "she looks like a poodle kind of girl," they're probably right.
Stanley Coren, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, explains that people choose dogs that look similar to themselves because of familiarity. We are comfortable with things that we see over and over again, and this familiarity is generally associated with positive feelings: "If the general features of one breed of dog's face look something like the general features of our own face, then, all other things being equal, that breed should arouse a bit more of a warm and loving response on our part."
Yet our fondness for dogs goes beyond cuddliness and similarities in "looks." Their intelligence, social structure, loyalty, and ability to learn visual and auditory commands have led to their domestication primarily as partners and companions, rather than food.
This is a relationship that predates written history. The DNA of dogs and wolves is almost identical; studies suggest that they split into different species around 100,000 years ago.
When did our association with dogs begin? In Germany, a burial of a human with a dog dates back 14,000 years. In China, the remains of domesticated dogs have been found in 9,000 year-old Neolithic sites; in the Americas (Danger Cave, Utah) the earliest dog burial found is 11,000 years old. One study suggests that all domesticated dogs are descended from three females near China, 15,000 years ago.
We can't say for sure why we began keeping dogs as companions; perhaps they began as village scavengers or garbage disposals, with humans adopting wolf pups that were easily tamed; or perhaps humans saw the value of dogs as herding and hunting partners.
In any case, what began as a relationship that benefited both early man and dog continues to today.
- Dogs (and wolves and foxes) are descended from a small, weasel-like mammal called Miacis which was a tree-dwelling creature and existed about 40 million years ago.
- The Ancient Chinese carried Pekingese puppies in the sleeves of their robes.
- In Roman times and the Middle Ages, mastiffs wearing light armor, carrying spikes and pots of flaming sulphur and resin ran into battle against mounted knights.
- George Washington had 36 foxhounds, and one was named Sweetlips.
- Teddy Roosevelt's pit bull, Pete, once ripped off a French ambassador's pants at a White House event.
- The first living being to travel in space was a small mixed breed dog named Laika, who gave her life orbiting the earth in the Russian Sputnik in 1957.
- Dogs naturally have a wonderful sense of smell. They have many more sensory 'smelling' cells than a man's 5,000,000. A Dachshund has 125,000,000, a Fox Terrier 147,000,000 and an Alsation (often used as a 'sniffer' dog) has 220,000,000.
- Dogs are able to see much better in dim light than humans are. This is due to the tapetum lucidum, a light-reflecting layer behind the retina. Because it functions like a mirror, it also accounts for the strange shine or glow in a dog's eyes at night.
- It is a myth that dogs are color blind. They can actually see in color, just not as vividly as humans. It is akin to our vision at dusk.
- A dog's mouth exerts 150-200 pounds of pressure per square inch, with some dogs exerting up to 450 pounds per square inch.
- Dogs' only sweat glands are between their paw pads.
- The normal body temperature for a dog is 101.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The U.S. has the highest dog population in the world, with two thirds of households having a pet dog. France has the 2nd highest.
- More than 5,000,000 puppies are born in the U.S. every year. More than 8,000,000 pets lose their lives in animal shelters each year due to overpopulation.
Puppy origami to print and fold: