Over the past few decades, the science behind dog behavior and training has exploded. There is now a whole new area of scholarship and practice centered around research into the intelligence, biology and skills of dogs.
Working dogs are more than just hunters and herders – they can be used in disease detection, wildlife protection, conservation and pest control. And if you’re a dog owner, you now have access to an array of psychologists, trainers, and books to help you raise happy, well-behaved dogs.
Whether you own a dog or simply enjoy walking or petting other people’s canine companions, you know firsthand the feeling of joy, affection and love we get from our four-legged friends. This special bond between humans and dogs goes back thousands of years – as ‘man’s best friend’, dogs are quite unique in their ability to offer loyalty and companionship.
So what do we know about a dog’s capacity for love? Does their devotion and warmth resemble ours, or are they simply responses to affection and treats?
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Author and canine researcher Clive Wynne says it’s the dogs’ ability to bond with other species, rather than their intelligence and skill, that makes them truly remarkable. Wynne, psychologist and founder of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University and author of “Dog is Love: why and how your dog loves yousays the latest scientific research is forcing us to rethink our basic assumptions about dog evolution and psychology.
Jonathan Bastian chats with Wynne about the latest scientific advances and how Wynne’s own relationship with his dog Xephos finally convinced him of the secret to the success of dogs in the human world.
“She’s so incredibly loving,” he says. “It shines through every pore of her little body, how much she loves us and how quickly she loves the new people who come to the door.”
Wynne is a fan of pooches and adopts a dog before adopting him. He says purebred dogs can look attractive, but people need to recognize that “the intensive inbreeding that has gotten us to a situation where we can guarantee a dog’s form, shape and color has had very negative impacts …we should look for dogs that are healthy and happy, not going out of shape and so on when that obviously only causes suffering.
Later, Wynne explains how the role of dogs has changed over time.
“During the thousands of years that we have lived with dogs, dogs have found so many different things they can do for us. Today, in the 21st century, their main job is simply to protect us from harm. loneliness,” he says. “We live in a time when more people live alone than ever before in human history. We don’t need a dog to hunt, we don’t need a dog to guard us, we don’t need a dog to herd sheep. We just need a dog to keep us company, and my God, they’re good for that!