For thousands of years, dogs have been loyal companions to humans. Today, dogs are part of many households in the United States. Their popularity as pets and service animals is a testament to their friendly, affectionate demeanors.
But what is it that makes dogs so nice? What sets them apart from their wolf ancestors? Why do they seem to love us so much?
Dogs are nice to humans because it is in their DNA. Researchers from Princeton University found that certain genes in dogs and wolves account for their different personalities. This genetic variation makes dogs more outgoing toward humans and wolves more aloof.
Dogs are natural pack animals and are innately sociable. Humans have selectively bred dogs for over 15,000 years, and dogs have evolved to be even more friendly, playful, and empathetic. The story of how dogs came to be so nice and why the human-canine bond is fascinating.
Why Are Dogs So Friendly And Nice To Us?
What could possibly match a dogs’ excitement and joy when its owners come home from work? Our dogs can make us feel so loved!
What is it about dogs that makes them so nice? Why are dogs so incredibly nice to humans?
The answer lies in how dogs have evolved as a species and the dramatic impact humans have had on their development through domestication.
The human-canine relationship dates back to over 15,000 years ago when dogs diverged from wolves. It all started when humans were still living as hunter-gatherers.
Within a pack of wolves, some individuals were more risk-averse and stayed far away from people. Other individuals were less wary of humans and would sneak into human settlements to feed off of food scraps.
These wolves became tamer and tamer around humans and eventually became domesticated.
Wolves’ and dogs’ personalities are largely genetically determined. Over thousands of years, dogs with the friendliest, most sociable traits were selectively bred. Dogs that were wary of humans or aggressive were bred out.
This selective breeding resulted in the breeds of dogs we have today. Some are large, some are small, some are fluffy, and some are almost hairless. The one thing that all breeds of dogs have in common is that they are eager to bond with humans. In essence, they are nice to us.
Do Dogs Really Love Us?
When our dogs nuzzle us, snuggle up next to us on the couch, or come running to us when they are frightened, it is difficult not to believe they truly love us. But are we just projecting humans emotions onto our dogs, or do they actually feel love for us?
Advancements in neuroscience have allowed scientists to gain insight into dogs’ brain functioning to determine how they perceive us. The results affirm what dog owners have known for hundreds of years – our dogs really love us.
One study used an MRI machine to monitor the regions of dogs’ brains that activate when they smell the scents of their owner, an unfamiliar person, a familiar dog, and a dog they do not know.
It was found that only the scent of a dog’s owner caused the reward-response region of a dog’s brain to respond. This reaction shows that dogs have a positive association with their owners.
Further to this, a behavioral study found that dogs interact with their owners in the same way that children do with their parents. They run to us when something scares them, or they need help, not away from us, like horses or cats.
Dogs are the only animals that seek out eye contact from humans, apart from primates. Dogs do not look into other dogs’ eyes, even their parents; this shows how vital bonding with us is to dogs.
The research all seems to confirm that dogs love us.
Why Are Some Dogs Not So Nice?
Within all species, there is genetic variation. For example, some dogs are friendlier and more amicable than other dogs. The differences in dogs’ behavior towards humans are genetically determined but can also be due to how dogs are treated.
Some breeds of dogs are more people-oriented than others. For example, Labradoodles have been bred as companion dogs and are friendlier than working dog breeds, like Bloodhounds.
However, if a Labradoodle is subjected to abuse and neglect, this could make the dog scared and even aggressive towards humans.
If a dog has a personality that is not so nice, it is safe to assume that it is probably due to how people have treated them. On the other hand, if a dog is always treated kindly, it is unlikely that it will not be friendly towards people.
This video dives into some of the science behind why some dogs are more likely than others to be aggressive towards humans, so feel free to check it out:
Note – You might also find this post interesting. It answers the question – why do dogs like me so much?
Why Do We Love Dogs So Much?
Dogs benefit humans in so many ways:
- Service dogs do a range of jobs, from assisting blind people to providing emotional assistance and even alerting their owners before they have a seizure. As a result, they make us safer and happier.
- Research has shown that owning a dog relieves a person’s stress levels and anxiety and can even increase our lifespan!
- Dogs provide lonely people with companionship and can give a person a deep sense of purpose.
The list of reasons why we love dogs so much is never-ending. Perhaps more interesting is how we love dogs so much.
In one study, mothers were shown pictures of their children and their dogs while monitoring their brain activity. The data showed that our dogs elicit the same emotional responses in our brains as our own children.
When we interact with our dog, our brain releases oxytocin – a hormone that makes us feel happy, it encourages us to bond with our dogs, further deepening our affection for them.
Dogs’ brains are hardwired to seek affection and protection from humans – this is why they are so nice to us; it is in their genetic makeup. Dogs evolved from wolves and are naturally social pack animals.
Humans have selectively bred dogs over thousands of years to become more friendly, playful, and obedient.
Human-canine relationships can be just as deep as humans’ relationships with one another. The depth of the bond between our two species is truly profound. Dogs have an immensely positive impact on our lives as our loyal companions.