Health & Environment

How Did Dogs Become Our Best Friends?

National Dog Day is Aug. 26 and Texas A&M veterinarian Dr. Lori Teller checks in to explain why dogs are so uniquely suited as companions for humans.
By Lesley Henton, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications August 25, 2023

a family with a dog
Dogs can develop social relationships with humans — that is, humans and dogs can “attach” to each other.

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As Americans pay homage to canines on National Dog Day Aug. 26, Dr. Lori Teller, a professor at the Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, provides insight into how dogs became our “best friends.”

How did dogs become good companions for humans?

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors began the process of domesticating wolves. Over millennia, there have been profound genetic changes that supported the development of the characteristics of the domestic dog. One of the major traits that was selected for is sociability. Through this selection process, dogs have figured out how to integrate into the community of a completely different species.

What is it about dogs that makes them so uniquely suited for companionship?

Dogs can develop social relationships with humans — that is, humans and dogs can “attach” to each other. This is fairly unique. Social relationships are pretty complex and dogs have been able to match their needs and expectations with the rest of their family. They can form attachments, follow rules, provide assistance or protection, and participate in some of our activities. They can also regulate their emotions to match ours. They don’t complain about the room temperature or if dinner was overcooked.

We do have to be careful to make that our bond with our dog is a healthy one. Otherwise some dogs may develop separation anxiety when their owner leaves the house.

Why are dogs so trainable?

One of the advantages to the mutual attachment between humans and dogs is their ability to learn by observation. Some dogs learn to open doors or flip a light switch by watching us. Because of this, they can also learn many other skills as well, making them excellent working or service animals.

We can blend this ability to mimic our behavior with some unique attributes that dogs have, such as their sensitivity to smells. This is what allows them be trained to sniff out bombs or drugs.

What is something most people may not know about dogs?

Dogs have ~18 muscles to move their ears, so their hearing is much more sensitive than ours as well. Moving their ears allows them to hear better. Ear movement and positioning is also a huge part of how dogs communicate with us, so it’s important to understand what different ear positions convey.

Is there anything you’d to add?

Because dogs are our “best friends,” we need to take good care of them. Just like us, regular check-ups, healthy diets and plenty of exercise can help our buddies be with us for a long time.

Media contact: Lesley Henton,

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