“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.”
Man’s Best Friend
A dog was once a wolf
All dogs are canids, a word derived from the scientific classification of the Canidae family, which includes coyotes, foxes, jackals, wolves, and numerous other species. The scientific name for domesticated dogs is Canis lupus familiaris,” a subspecies of the gray wolf, from which we get more than 400 distinct dog breeds. Many studies have compared the similarities and differences between wolves and dogs since they are related. Wolves became predecessors to dogs, one of humanity’s most popular companion animals. Adult wolves are known to be aloof, withdrawn, and even aggressive, but when they are quite young they resemble puppies, playful, cute, and even barking like a dog. It is remarkable how a once vicious animal has evolved into man’s best friend.
As pack animals, wolves are fiercely loyal to the pack and submissive to the alpha wolf. This innate characteristic has transferred to domesticated dogs in that they are loyal to their human families, or “the pack,” and obedient to the person who serves as their primary caretaker, or the “alpha wolf.” This concept has been misunderstood, so it’s important to clarify that alpha wolves are benevolent parental figures who care for the pack, rather than dictators who take over the pack by force. This is important to understand for anyone living with a dog or attempting to train one.
It is true that dogs play a major role in society; from their formal professions as work dogs to their important roles as companions, dogs touch and help many lives. Yet there is a fine line between man’s best friend and a feared vicious animal.
Dogs Natural Instinct
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2001, more than 368,000 dog bites resulted in emergency room visits. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that in 2012, more than 27,000 people received reconstructive surgery as a result of a dog attack. The costs accrued from dog bites are astronomical, involving medical bills, homeowners insurance, lawyer fees, animal control fees and so on.
Although much ongoing debate continues as to whether humans have corrupted dogs or whether they contribute to a dog’s behavior, the point is that dogs were once wild wolves and, as a human race, we must acknowledge and respect that. A dog’s innate defense mechanisms differ from a human’s and many of these defense mechanisms may involve aggression, especially if the dog is protecting their human or their territory. On the other side of the coin, dogs can be the most compassionate animals that truly benefit from human companionship and vice versa.