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Dogs are More Like Humans than Chimpanzees?

April 16, 2009 | 34,676 views
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dogsChimpanzees share many genes with humans, but dogs have lived among humans for so long and undergone so much domestication that they are now serving as a model for understanding human social behavior.

Cooperation, attachment to people, understanding human verbal and non-verbal communications, and the ability to imitate are just a handful of the social behaviors people share with dogs. Dogs might even think like us at times. It is possible that dogs and humans adapting to the same living conditions during this period may have resulted in the similarities.

A new paper argues that dogs should serve as the "new chimpanzees" in comparative studies designed to shed light on human uniqueness.

Multiple studies support the notion that dogs exhibit all three primary types of social behavior that chimpanzees do -- "sociality," or organization into groups where members are loyal to each other, “synchronization”, where following shared social rules helps to strengthen group unity, and "constructive activity," where individuals within a group cooperate to achieve goals.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

It is with great excitement that I introduce Dr. Karen Becker to you once again. For those of you who may not know, Dr. Becker is one of the leading natural health vets in the U.S. We searched extensively throughout the nation to find a veterinarian who shared a similar passion and enthusiasm for natural health, and we are thrilled we finally found her -- practically in our own backyard! If you haven't seen Dr. Becker's previous video, please view it here.

 
Dr. BeckerDr. Becker’s Comment:  

It turns out dogs are not only “man’s best friend” -- they’re one of our closest relatives too, at least in terms of social behavior. I was quite  elated  to learn that dogs are even more like humans socially than chimpanzees, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

Dogs have been domesticated for at least 10,000 to 15,000 years, and they are one of the few breeds of animals that are dependent on human proximity for their very existence. At the same time, people depend on dogs for a variety of reasons ranging from companionship, search and rescue/service, to herding, so it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

How did Dogs Become Domesticated?

All dogs evolved from the gray wolf. In fact, their DNA is still nearly identical, differing by, at most, 0.2 percent (this should clue you in on their nutritional requirements as well!). There are two main theories as to how dogs separated from wolves and first became pals with humans.

Some experts believe humans initiated the contact by taking a lone wolf pup and raising it. This led to a more tame pup that was used to people, while humans began to favor the least aggressive wolf pups, along with those that learned to beg for food.

On the other hand, other experts believe dogs emerged by hanging around people’s trash heaps and becoming increasingly tame over time.

It’s thought that intensive dog breeding by humans in the last 500 years alone has led to the numerous dog breeds available today, and they are now one of the most diverse species in the world.

Dog Social Behaviors That May Surprise You

As the latest study pointed out, dogs exhibit all three of the primary social behaviors as humans. They include:
1. Sociality: Organizing into groups where members show loyalty and reduced aggression to one another.
2. Synchronization: Sharing social rules and emotions, which leads to stronger group unity.
3. Constructive activity: Individuals within a group cooperate and communicate with each other to achieve goals.

Dogs can even tell the difference between rational and irrational human communication, the study’s lead researcher said.

Further, a study published in the journal Biology Letters concluded that dogs can "catch" human yawns, which provides evidence that dogs may be able to “read the mind” of their owners.

Still other studies have shown that dogs, like people and monkeys, also have a sense of fairness. In fact, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that if a dog does a trick and gets no reward, but sees another dog get a reward for doing the very same trick, they react to the unfair treatment by refusing to do the trick again.

They may even show their displeasure by turning away and refusing to look at you! This research gives us lots of food for thought!

So dogs are not only sensitive to human behaviors, but, as researchers are revealing, provide a great model for understanding human behavior as well. Above and beyond this, dogs, and other pets, are actually beneficial for your health.

Why Dogs, and Other Pets, May Improve Your Health

Owning a pet can add joy, love and companionship to your life, all things that have a positive impact on your emotional health. These benefits extend to your physical health as well, and even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that owning a pet can decrease your:

• Blood pressure
• Cholesterol levels
• Triglyceride levels
• Feelings of loneliness

Further, many years of research has shown that pet ownership can result in benefits such as:

• Higher survival rates after heart attacks
• Reduced risk of asthma in children exposed to pet allergens during the first year of life
• Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
• Better physical and psychological well-being in community-dwelling older people

If this is a topic that interests you, I highly suggest reading The Health Benefits of Pets from the National Institutes of Health. It contains pages of research showing how pets can improve heart health, child development, recovery from illness and health among the elderly, among other benefits.

Finally, if you’re a pet owner, an animal lover or are thinking of adding a furry friend to your home, keep an eye out for our brand new site MercolaHealthyPets.com, which will be launching soon. We’ll be discussing all sorts of health related issues at this new site, including the human-animal bond.

At MercolaHealthyPets.com you’ll find all the tools and resources you need to make sure your pets live a long and healthy life.

In the meantime, though I don’t watch TV very often, when I do I really enjoy The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan. Although I don’t agree with all of his training techniques, he provides good insight into many of the behavioral issues dog owners commonly encounter. He also agrees that the foundation of an emotionally and physically healthy dog is daily aerobic exercise, which we know is critical for a well balanced dog.
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