Dogs hold a special place in the hearts of many humans, and there are several reasons why they are so important to us. In addition to their warmth, softness, and ability to inspire unconditional love, dogs possess unique characteristics that set them apart from other animals.
As a dog researcher, animal behavior consultant, and dog lover, I believe there are five traits that make dogs truly special.
Firstly, dogs are hypersocial creatures. Some dogs, like golden retrievers, are incredibly friendly and excited to meet new people. These dogs have genetic differences that make them more sociable, similar to people with Williams-Beuren syndrome. Even dogs that are not hypersocial are still accepting of unfamiliar individuals and animals, making it easy for them to fit into our lives.
Secondly, dogs are wired to understand humans. Through generations of selective breeding, dogs have developed an interest in humans and a willingness to take direction from us. They are attracted to human faces from a young age and tend to be submissive towards us. Dogs also learn to follow our gaze and show a left-gaze bias when looking at our faces, indicating that they can read our emotions.
Thirdly, dogs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. No other species displays the same diversity as domestic dogs. From tiny Chihuahuas to giant Great Danes, dogs can vary greatly in size. They also have different ear shapes, tail lengths, coat colors, and textures. This variation can influence their behavior and experiences.
Fourthly, dogs form deep emotional bonds with their human caregivers. They develop attachment bonds similar to those between children and parents. Dogs can read our emotional signals, become distressed when we are distressed, and experience happiness when they smell their owners. They see us as more than just providers of food and playtime; we are their attachment figures.
Lastly, dogs have the ability to bring out the best in us. They provide unconditional love and can be confidants for their owners. Dogs play important roles in animal-assisted therapy, where their nonjudgmental presence can have a calming effect and facilitate social interactions. They can even help children learn to read and alleviate anxiety.
In conclusion, dogs are special simply because they are dogs. They possess social acrobatics, rich emotional lives, and a tolerance for our human ways. They can find social harmony, coexist with different species, and receive our love. Dogs are uniquely positioned to accompany us wherever we go, making them truly exceptional animals.