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Dogs Really Are Mankind's Best Friend

The author is a QUB Political Science honors graduate and a Powerlifter

Constant Companions and Professionals

There is a myriad of truth in the old adage that 'a dog is mankind's best friend' and as we all know, specialist dogs have proved themselves invaluable to humanity. A prime example is in the field of assisting those of us who live with a wide range of disabilities. Seeing-eye dogs usually referred to as 'guide dogs' in the UK and Ireland, have allowed people with impaired sight to regain the freedom to travel and maintain a quality of life previously impossible to many of our fellows.

Hearing dogs for the hearing impaired have added security and greatly enhanced the quality of life of those of us with a wide range of hearing impairments. On a brief personal note, following a thankfully non-permanent inner ear concussion, my Labrador, 'Lenin', became my super-enhanced hearing aid.

Even in the field of crime prevention, sniffer dogs are now a staple in most police forces, with canines trained to detect narcotics, explosives, firearms, and even large, undeclared sums of cash. Snow Rescue dogs, since the era of the iconic Saint Bernard, have assisted in the recovery of mountain-climbers from usually fatal avalanches. Highly-trained search and rescue dogs are used to recover those who have lost consciousness in the wilderness, while trekking or hunting and are also now used in off-shore rescues.

Our Friends and Trusted Helpers


A man or woman's best friend + Oxytocin triggers!

Dogs, with only the briefest of training, if any, will sense callers to your home a long time before you will even hear them on your drive, gateway or on the street close to a terraced home. As mentioned earlier, assistance dogs for the hearing impaired can, with only a modicum of training, decipher a 'friendly' car's engine sound signature from quite a distance away and can distinguish it from a myriad of other cars that may pass one's home or car park nearby. Any dog, of any size, from a tiny Shih Tzu to a large German Shepherd, will instinctively become your home's watchdog. When asked about questions of home security my first suggestion was invariably to consider buying a dog or re-homing a dog from the local shelter.

A dog views the world in a completely different way to how humans perceive it and this must be greatly coloured by their heightened senses of smell and hearing, for instance, a dog knows it's way home but the 'mental map', that becomes second nature to both humans and dogs, is compiled in very different ways. All dog owners will testify that their pet knows when it is being discussed, aural triggers are definitely used by dogs. Ask any dog owner how they have noticed their pet's ears prick-up when they know they are being discussed!

Dogs' loyalty to humans is legendary and tales like 'Greyfriars Bobby' are actually fact-based. Treat a dog with kindness, feed it, and care for it and it will defend you until death if need be. A dog enjoys being a dog. It is when people start treating them as 4 legged humans that behavioural problems start to become apparent. Likewise, as it is now widely accepted, dogs have hardwired pack instincts, partly a tenet from their evolution from Wolves. Really serious issues arise when an owner allows or forces their dog to take over the role of pack leader from their owner or when an owner simply abdicates that role. Internationally famous, so-called Dog Gurus do universally accept and preach that a dog who knows their place in the family/pack's pecking order is a happy dog. This, of course, is true but shouldn't really be imparted to owners for thousands of dollars in profit.

The benefits of having a dog are actually so numerous that they are near unquantifiable, but it suffices to say that a dog will never be overly judgemental, prejudiced, ungrateful, or disloyal if you treat them with just a little kindness and consideration. It only takes the provision of adequate food, a little exercise, and some TLC and your dog will love you unconditionally and you will become by far the most important sentient being in its life.

Furthermore, your dog will be your kindest critic; it won't judge you one bit harshly if you have not vacuumed, dusted, missed a shower, mown the yard, emptied the dishwasher, polished tables, or changed the duvets as regularly as the Martha Stewart-types would stipulate.

In some studies, close proximity to dogs and petting them has been shown to release Oxytocin, a hormone and neurotransmitter that produces a sense of wellbeing, warmth, empathy, pro-social behaviours, and can even act as an anxiolytic in both males and females. See:

1. Odendaal and Meintjes, 2003; Neurophysiological Correlates of Affiliative Behaviour between Humans and Dogs;

2. Miller et al.; 2009; An Examination of Changes in Oxytocin Levels in Men and Women Before and After Interaction With a Bonded Dog;

3. Handlin, et al.; 2011; Short-Term Interaction between Dogs and Their Owners: Effects on Oxytocin, Cortisol, Insulin and Heart Rate—An Exploratory Study

Rescuers and Helpers

My Lab & I searching the Inishowen coastline

My Lab & I searching the Inishowen coastline

Lenin having fun on the beach at Malin Head, Donegal.

Lenin having fun on the beach at Malin Head, Donegal.

Pavlov's Dogs

Even in the average domestic setting, the non-specialist dog is an invaluable asset to mankind. Dogs, by virtue of the fact that to put it simply, they can not 'talk', have evolved into a species who are highly tuned to understanding our body language, our verbal and non-verbal communications in everyday life. What our canine friends lack from not having the power of speech, they make up in having hard-wired, much keener senses.

Dogs have learned to read humans' body language, facial expressions, emotions and combined with their heightened sense of smell, sight, and hearing, this makes for a very intelligent and loyal companion. Many people, mistakenly, attribute dogs with an almost uncanny insight into humans but this belief can be, at least, partially debunked by the scientific fact that once one 'sense' is removed, the others tend to over-compensate for that loss and similar phenomena can be observed in dogs. Pavlov certainly knew his subject well when he used dogs in his famous psychological research.

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Dogs Decoded Documentary

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2019 Liam A Ryan


Liam A Ryan (author) from Ireland on September 21, 2019:

Oh, I totally understand! I even like looking a peoples' dogs' pics on Twitter!

As I think I mentioned in the article, dogs know a lot more about us than many realize.

And of course, a dog who you feed, give some affection to will love you unconditionally for life.

Dogs are brilliant, I agree totally.

Tori Leumas on September 21, 2019:

I love dogs. I always want dogs in my life. I don’t know what I would do without my dogs.

Liam A Ryan (author) from Ireland on August 01, 2019:

Thank you all for your insight into dogs, your expertise is brilliant,

I really love hearing your dog stories so much.

I lost my dear Labrador on New Year's Eve 2017 and I miss my constant companion so much.

Liam A Ryan (author) from Ireland on August 01, 2019:

I was originally against getting a dog, as I knew once the hype over ownership was over, I'd get lumped into ALL dog jobs.

As it turned out, I & Lenin were inseparable for the ten years we were together. I still miss him so much.

N E Wright from Dover, Delaware on August 01, 2019:

I did not know that about wolves. Wow. Yes, I have noticed that dogs love to lay next to you in general. It made me feel special. Lol. Will be reading more of your work. Enjoyed this one so much.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 31, 2019:

I was not a 'doglover' until we had a chocolate labrador in the family. He was hard work as a puppy, but he is brilliant with a baby and a toddler. I took a very cute photo of the dog, now nearly 3, laying his head on the feet of the baby asleep in her car seat. We never leave him in the room alone with the kids, but he is very good with both of them. Our 1 year old grandson considers him to be his best friend.

Farah Ahmed on July 31, 2019:

Bless.. I love that his name is Lenin. Any particular reason why you chose that name..? I might guess but I could be wrong lol.

Liam A Ryan (author) from Ireland on July 31, 2019:

Thank you so much for your heartwarming comment, it makes writing worthwhile.

Have you ever noticed how dogs know so quickly if we are feeling sad & come over to look in our eyes, I've noticed that they are so perceptive.

I am sure you may have noticed how much dogs like to lie at our feet? I suspect it may come partly from how some dogs evolved from wolves, in that they figured that domesticity could earn them food and shelter easier than hunting us.

Thank you again for your kind comment

N E Wright from Dover, Delaware on July 31, 2019:

I enjoyed this article and recognize so many of the examples you gave and smiled as reading them. Lol. My late childhood dog Betsy comes to mind. All examples gave reminded me of her actions. How about when they want a hug and they start nudging your available arm over them for a hug and caress. That was my high year memories. Thanks for this article.

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