My Dog Could Understand English At Birth

Most dogs have been reduced to the status of companion or family pet.

(But he's really stubborn and disobedient)

We see it all the time, don’t we? You know who I mean, the people standing over their dogs screaming at them to sit, or to lie down, or dragging them off streetlights when the dog pauses to smell the messages left there by other dogs.

These are the bane of the image of what dog ownership should be and, if we shift back a few thousand years, we’ll find that things have changed a lot for the worse.

A partnership with wolves

There is still divided opinion about when and where the earliest partnerships between man and wolf were formed. It may have been 10,000 or 30,000 years ago. It was probably in or around what we now call China, although it may also have been in the Middle East or even Europe.

Irrespective of the details, what we do know is that wolf and man first came together in a wary partnership in which each provided something the other needed.

The most common and best supported theory is that wolves were attracted to the fires of humans and the smell of cooking meat. These wolves would not be regarded as alpha-type, but less aggressive and with a weaker fight or flight response.

Scavenging near human settlements would enable them to add to the nutrition they took from foraging and reduce their need to expend energy hunting (early wolves were omnivorous).

What did our ancestors gain in return? Perimeter guards with exceptional hearing and olfactory sensitivity.

As time passed the humans began to harness the wolf’s ability to track a scent and protect a kill, while the wolf would benefit from man’s ability to kill with weapons without having to go close-quarters with a dangerous and stressed prey.

Our relationship was truly symbiotic because each became dependent on the others’ abilities. It was very much in man’s interest to treat their partners well.

Look at me now

While there are still many working dogs with valuable roles to play in activities such as farming and as service dogs, environments where a dog’s skills are still highly prized and respected, most dogs have been reduced to the status of companion or family pet.

Dog owners acquire their pets for a multitude of reasons, including:

‘It would be good for the kids to grow up with a dog and share some of the responsibility’

‘My friend has a beautifully behaved little puppy and I want one too’

‘Dogs are a great way to get to talk to girls’

‘I got a dog to stop the cat from next door crapping in my yard’

‘Security, pure and simple’

The question that all of these reasons give rise to is, ‘What’s in it for the dog?’

What happened to ‘having a companion you can share your life with’?

Back to basics

Of course dogs don't understand words until they're taught what they mean. Is it fair for an owner, who is too lazy to put some effort into training, to be able to give a dog up for rescue because it's been deemed unsuitable? Even worse are those who tie their unwanted dogs up at the side of the road.

We know that many will go straight out and find another dog to subsequently tag with the 'stupid' label.

It's a shame that it's something that can't be made the subject of legislation, because the majority of dog owners are responsible and would put their political representatives under a great deal of pressure to support a bill that provided better protection for dogs against stupid owners.