Beginnings of dog communication

The study of domestication represents a laborious and complex work. Indeed, the clues dating from the time that informs us about our ways of life are rare, the domestication of the dog that took place before the invention of writing, with which begins history. But many theories come to shed light on the events at the origin of the formidable relationship woven between man and dog.

For a long time, researchers have thought that the primitive dog has approached human populations by mutual interest : the humans brought food resources to the canids, and in exchange found a security in the presence of this predator close to their home.

The approaching man-dog: association reciprocally profitable?

This theory is still the most relevant available to scientists today, and recent observations on wild-backed dogs confirm . Indeed, in many countries, dog populations live close to humans without being truly domesticated (they have little social contact with people nearby and breed in nature without human control). We observe then very clearly how these dogs adapt well to an environment close to humans, by disposing of our waste. This way of life has long been that of the primitive dogs, leading the man and the dog to get closer little by little.

This type of relationship, in biology, is called commensalism : it It is a question of taking advantage of a resource brought by another species, without however spoiling it (otherwise it is another form of parasitism). This type of relationship is very often seen in nature: the pilot fish and the shark is another easy example to visualize, of mutual interest between two species. The relationship can even evolve to the symbiosis , when both bring indispensable services to each other!

Now, it turns out that the The dog was used by the man in a role of helping to protect his flocks and the hunt, which clearly favored the men while guaranteeing the dog to have food in quantity. We can not speak of symbiosis in the sense that men and dogs can separate and live independently of each other, but the limit is close, especially since some dog breeds no longer reproduce without assistance, by example

A common adaptation to each other

Dog domestication is a unique case among all species with which humans interact. It is virtually the only domesticated species that is not used primarily for livestock and food. And not content to escape this destiny, the dog performs a large number of tasks in collaboration with the human, more than other species are able to achieve.

At the present time, studies in ethology reveal what characterizes the social side of the dog, namely its ability to form groups and live there. We have known for a long time that the dog is anything but solitary, but we discover the elements of his behavior proper to a social species. Indeed, as many species that live in groups are numerous, it is rare that they are able to form groups with other species. However, is one of the greatest qualities of the dog , to be able to get along well with the human, but also all the other animals that can accompany us.

domestication has probably selected and reinforced this aspect of the dog's behavior. Today, we observe a repertoire of communication so vast, that some messages are transmitted from the master to the dog without either having to learn ! For example, the posture of call to the game, used spontaneously even by a puppy, is perfectly understandable for the man, without any hesitation, even for a neophyte of canine psychology as a child.

The dog also adapts very his communication with the humans with whom he lives, and also with other animals: dogs and cats can live perfectly side by side, and it is often the dog that adapts to the requirements of the cat .

The man has also adapted to the dog's presence in his environment. Gradually, the dog has finally entered our homes, sometimes even to enjoy the same comfort as the humans who live with him . It certainly has not been instantaneous: historically, the appearance of the companion dog (as opposed to the dog that performs a specific task) only dates from the last century. But even before, the dog lived near the family, in a space specially designed for him.

The communication of the dog is therefore what is its strength, and its capacity for social adaptation. Domestication has certainly evolved these skills by selecting the most man-friendly dogs, but the many examples of dogs cooperating with other species testify to its innate ability to communicate .

Dr Stéphane Tardif
Veterinary doctor and editor for AllCreatureAnimalClinic

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