Is the Human-Canine Bond Unique?

Humans and dogs have had a special bond for thousands of years—we see it in the way dogs work, play, and live with us. Most experts agree that this relationship developed when the wolf, the dog’s ancestor, and human came in contact with each other.

No one disputes the clear bond dogs have with us and there have been many studies that explore this attachment.

Dogs Love Us, They Really Love Us

Some researchers reason that it has to do with the dog’s cognitive abilities, but others believe it has less to do with intelligence and more to do with friendliness and sociability.

Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to follow what goes on in a dog’s brain during interactions with humans. He found that a dog’s reward center is as active when the dog is praised as when they’re given a hot dog.

This is where we may disappoint some of you dog lovers out there: it’s not only humans that dogs bond with.

Is the Dog-Human Bond Unique?

Dr. Wynne—along with Princeton biologist Bridgett vonHoldt, and other researchers—found that dogs have certain genes that, in humans, are associated with the rare genetic disorder Williams-Beuren syndrome, a symptom of which is “indiscriminate friendliness.”

One thing that is clear is that dogs can and will bond with other animals if they are raised with them. Raise a puppy with a goat and he’ll bond with goats, for example. Biologists Raymond and Lorna Coppinger documented examples of puppies that were raised with sheep bonding with the sheep.

Bill Costanzo at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in San Angelo, Texas conducts real-life research into the bonding process. He raises puppies to become good Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) and studies the factors that lead to success.

At about three months old, potential LGD puppies are placed in bonding pens with whatever species will be under their future protection.

The term “pen” is misleading here, since each one is a fenced-in field roughly one acre in size. Once they’ve successfully bonded, they’re moved to larger pastures along with the animals that will be in their charge.