Just like many of you, we love our dogs, cats and all our other pets (try to stop us from sharing cute pics). We also enjoy learning all about why they do the funny things they do or how they become their domestic selves from their wild ancestors. Here’s a few of the things we know about our furry friends.
HOW DOGS LEARNED LOVE HUMANS
Exactly how dogs became such a constant in the lives of humans is something scientists are still trying to comprehend. But research has added an interesting clue: dog breeds considered to be less connected to their wolf ancestry have genetic changes that seem to result in lower stress levels around humans. A pup that was less cautious around humans would have been more likely to begin to develop the social-cognitive skills necessary for human-dog bonding. That was the first step toward your favorite snuggly pup.
BIG or SMALL we LOVE them ALL
Dogs famously come in a range of sizes, from the tiny chihuahua to the hulking Great Dane. However, scientists have been unable to pin down the genetic reasons for such a size span, that is, until they discovered a genetic mutation that shockingly traces back to ancient wolves and appears to be behind the range of canine sizes, scientists were unable to identify the genetic causes for such a wide span.
JUSTICE FOR KITTIES!
Dogs get all the credit as humans’ best friend, but cats can form just as strong a bond with their human caretakers. You may not notice the bond you form with a feline because the signs are different from canines. Signs that your feline friend is bonded to you include scenting by rubbing their head on you, showing their belly, blinking and letting you get close.
PUPPY DOG EYES ARE REAL
Any dog owner knows how nice it is to come home to a wiggly, waggy pup who is happy to see their human. But research shows dogs reunited with their people also tear up—seemingly stimulated by the hormone oxytocin—which makes humans want to cuddle and care for them even more. Yes, you heard that right, Happy Tears.
WHY SHEEPDOGS HERD AND POINTERS POINT
The 350-plus dog breeds that are known today are each associated with certain behavioral traits—sheepdogs herd, certain hounds sniff out scents, and so on. By combing through the deep ancestral relationships among breeds, as well as dog genomes and behavioral data, researchers were able show how certain genes are linked to particular behaviors. For example, in the sheepdog lineage, certain coding regions of the genome affect how neurons in the brain connect to one another, which can affect behavior. It’s something to ponder the next time your border collie or German shepherd tries to herd you around the house.
DOGS “SPEAK” OUR LANGUAGE
Sit, stay, roll over—we often teach dogs to obey verbal commands. But how much of human language do they understand? And do they perceive words differently from other sounds? Research this year suggests that they do and that dogs can differentiate Spanish from Hungarian from total gibberish. Good dog!
Credit to Andrea Thompson, Scientific American