We have been a nation of dog lovers for centuries. Learn how the relationship between human and wolf evolved into man's best friend.

If you think the UK is the most devoted nation of mutt nuts, you could be wrong. According to statistics from PFMA, the idea that Brits are the only bunch of dog lovers is now redundant. 

There are currently nine million dogs in the UK—that’s 24 percent of the population! That puts us Brits a smidge behind the rest of Europe, with 25 percent of the population now canine co-habiting. Meanwhile in the US, however, a whopping 37 percent of the population own a pooch. 

Wherever we’re based geographically and even chronologically, dogs and humans have been in a long-term relationship for centuries—and it’s not complicated. 

 

How did it all begin? 

It has long been assumed that humans made use of wolves for their hunting skills and moulded them into the domesticated dogs we know and trust today. However, recent scientific theories suggest it was the wolves who approached us for our own hunting skills and our warming fires. 

Humans have always been wary of wild animals and have then killed both out of fear and to reduce the competition for food. For that reason it was not a case of survival of the fittest wolves, rather survival of the friendliest. 

 

Survival of the friendliest

friendly wolf love affection

In time, those friendly wolves started to change. Their hair became longer and softer, their tales started to wag, and their psychological makeup changed too. 

Wolves learned to read the emotions of their human counterparts. They began to understand body language and facial expressions more readily and accurately than even chimpanzees.

They also became protectors, warning us of possible danger with their warning barks and snarling teeth. 

 

 “A dog should be an asset to you.
It should enrich your life” 

– Renowned dog lover and comedian Bill Bailey

 

Three dog night

man dog sleeping bed

Canine companions quickly became an enriching and desirable commodity for humans, from the hunt to the hearth, and the benefits didn’t stop at the hallway. 

Aborigines and Inuits brought their dogs to the bedroom. The phrase (and band name) “three dog night” originates from both Native Australian and Indian Inuit culture: when you are particularly cold and/or lonely of an evening and decide to sleep with your dogs for warmth.

This mutually beneficial relationship was heartwarmingly demonstrated recently as a group of Swedish hikers were befriended by a stray dog along their South American journey. 

 

Arthur: A companion to the end

dog human love heart hand paw

Arthur, as he became known, first approached the team for a meatball, but then continued to follow the hikers for 430 miles through the Ecuadorian rainforest, not stopping once. 

Even when it came to kayaking the last stretch of the journey, from which health and safety staff decided he was forbidden, Arthur began swimming to catch up and eventually hopped aboard: proving the breadth of a dog’s loyalty for a good meal and good companionship.  

Read more from Sophie Taylor

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