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  • Tifaine Tordjmann

Why Dogs Are the Ultimate Manipulators

The other day, I came home exhausted and with a pile of homework awaiting me. All I wanted to do was get cozy in my bed and take a nap. Maybe have some dinner. I slothfully lugged myself over to my desk miserably, and as I opened my laptop, all I could do was notice my dog, Magali, who had settled herself on my bed, taking the nap I so desperately desired and needed. I was so jealous; she had a home, great food, a hot mom, and countless nap times. It was at this moment that I realized, my dog, and all pets, are the ultimate manipulators. How come dogs are the only species that truly loves their owners? Why are they so loyal? Sometimes they do escape, yes, but why do they often choose to never leave and instead, succumb to our orders? 


Brief History of the Dog

Before dogs were domesticated, where did they live? While exact origins of the dog are still up for debate, genetic and archaeological evidence suggests that dogs derive from extinct gray wolves, the gray wolf being the dog’s closest relative today. Academic scientific sources consider that the wolf began its transformation into dog over 130,000 years ago, before agriculture and human settlement, illustrating the even stronger bond between humans and dogs as these canines served as companions to assist humans during migration. Nevertheless, the most proven and generally true history explains that the dog began to be domesticated by hunter-gatherer societies dating back to 15,000 years ago, specifically originating in Oberkassel, Bonn, a municipal district in Germany. 


The Human-Dog Friendship 

As the first creature domesticated by any human, such a bond that was created happened and became lasting for the benefits that both humans and dogs found in their relationship. On one hand, humans used dogs to aid in hunting, herding, protection, assisting police, the military, handicapped individuals, therapy, and most importantly, companionship. On the other hand, dogs benefitted from the food and shelter provided by humans; the man becoming the dog’s most significant other that they trust, especially during early development where they could adapt to human living. From wolf to dog, thousands of years have allowed for evolutionary transformation. These canines became smaller, with shorter muzzles and smaller teeth; respectfully losing their ability to be true hunters as their food was taken care of by human hunters. Selective breeding has allowed for many different breeds to generate from the wolf ancestor. 


Adapting for Humans 

Dogs have even adapted their physical features overtime, theorized by researchers that they did so in order to secure their bond with humans. For example, facial cues are a very important sign of communication used in both wolf and human societies, a skill that dogs have made use of to communicate with us. Through the development of specific facial musculature different from wolves, notably with the eyebrow furrowing that has created the “puppy dog eyes” look, has enhanced our response to care for these canines. For another, dogs have made efforts through the domestication process to make extensive eye contact with humans, or tilt their head to the side, for similar manipulative reasons. 


While it may seem that dogs are only manipulating us for food and shelter, one only has to take a quick look at the domestication of cats (a story for another time). It is less that they have adapted to become manipulative, but more that our ways of life and forms of communication have allowed for such an amazing inter-special companionship to exist. Humans and dogs generally enjoy each other’s company – it is even proven that when humans and dogs interact in a positive way, both partners exhibit a surge in oxytocin levels, a bidirectional attachment bond that I would never take for granted.

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