Dr Harry: The evolving role of the dog
Like many animals, dogs began as a wild species that hunted for their food and survived off the land. In fact, the ancestral dog is most genetically similar to the grey wolf. There is evidence that dogs and humans have worked together for well over 15,000 years and certainly dogs were an important part of the hunter gatherer society 10,000 years ago. Just as humans have evolved, so too have dogs - with most modern breeds being developed over the last 700 years.
Although initially self sufficient, the domestication of dogs made them more reliant on their owners. At the same time, many owners developed their dogs as either companions or for special purposes such as guard dogs, herding dogs or for ornamental purposes. The idea of ‘man’s best friend’ was born and the bond was forged. While there are many differences between a pet dog and a ‘working dog’, there are also many similarities. They both need food, water, housing, training, entertainment and social interaction.
There are numerous types of working dogs, some have been around for quite some time and most have been selected to do specific jobs. Perhaps the most traditional dog ‘occupation’ is that of the farm dog. These dogs are trained from an early age to round up livestock, jump off and on work vehicles, and lead an active and engaging life. Sheep dogs, like the Australian Kelpie and the Border Collie, are great for this sort of thing as they readily learn to muster with appropriate training.
Dogs perform many other lines of work. Therapy dogs are another type of assistance dog, and help their owners who are recovering from a debilitating injury or dealing with an acute illness. Seeing eye/guide dogs function as a set of eyes for their visually impaired owners. Guide dogs are often Retrievers (Labrador or Golden Retriever).
Many other types of working dogs are utilised for their incredible sense of smell. A dog’s sense of smell is 1,000 times more sensitive than that of a human’s. This makes dogs a great asset to our forces when detecting narcotics, explosives, flora and fauna, and even humans. Dogs can be trained for specific purposes and many ‘detection dogs’ such as Springer Spaniels have been selected to focus on one highly specific smell.
For example, St Bernards are renowned for their ability to find people in the snow. Likewise, Beagles are commonly used in quarantine spaces (such as airports) as they are less confronting. Breeds such as Malanois, Belgian and German Shepherds are commonly used to form the Police ‘dog squad’. These breeds are trained to focus on specific areas of police work and perform various duties such as discovering narcotics and tracking a criminal’s scent from a crime scene.
Regardless of whether a dog is fetching a newspaper or herding livestock, it is clear that dogs are an important part of our society and our family make-up. For children in particular, owning a dog teaches responsibility. There is also an abundance of scientific evidence to support the idea that children who have grown up with pets grow up to be far more successful in life. Even for an adult, simply spending 10 minutes a day stroking your pet is clinically proven to reduce blood pressure.
Visit Everyday Pet Insurance today and discover the different levels of cover available to help protect your dog from the unexpected.