How your dog became your best friend – the facts behind the mystery

How your dog became your best friend – the facts behind the mystery

Man’s best friend for centuries, have you ever wondered how the special relationship with your pooch came about? The answer may surprise you.


Wolfy ancestors

As revealed by Helen Briggs of The BBC, new evidence has shown how human relationships with wolves developed over the years. It’s now considered likely that our modern day canines evolved at a single location from their wolf ancestors around 20,000 to 40,000 year ago.

This is in direct contrast to previous thinking that dogs were tamed from two separate wolf populations living miles and miles apart. So what’s new for our pooch friends?


It’s in the DNA

After three dogs were found at archaeological sites in Germany and Ireland, aged between 4,000 and 7,000 years old, researchers discovered that they shared DNA with modern European dogs. By examining the rates of change from the ancient ancestors to today’s pooches, scientists were able to pinpoint the timing of domestication.


Helen spoke to Krishna Veeramah of Stony Brook University in New York, who said that the process of dog domestication began when a population of wolves moved to the outskirts of human hunter-gatherer camps to scavenge for leftovers.


‘Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,’ he explained. ‘While the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.’


Up for debate

The reasons why dogs became our faithful sidekicks has been debated by for centuries. Now scientists think that they began moving around the world, potentially with a human friend, about 20,000 years ago. Fast-forward 14,000 years and dogs were almost everywhere – although they’d have been more like the kinds of dogs you see in rural villages abroad than our modern pets.


Dr Veeramah thinks they ‘would likely have resembled dogs we today call village dogs, which are free-breeding that did not live in specific peoples' houses and have a similar look to them across the world.’


Developing as pets

As dogs began to be bred for their skills as hunters, gundogs or herders, hundreds of modern breeds began to develop with the different looks they have today. And it’s not just in the UK and Europe: apparently the research suggests that even the breeds found in the Americas and the Pacific Islands are almost completely identical to the ones on this continent.

How this changes things

This new knowledge means that most modern dog breeds actually come from European ancestors rather than Eurasian ones, as previously thought.  ‘This ancestral relationship may even stretch back to the oldest dog fossil we know of, which is approximately 14,000 years old from Germany’, Dr Veeramah suggests.


So there you have it. Best friends for 7,000 years. Give your furry sidekick the healthiest, happiest life by downloading PoochPlay now. Free to use forever, we’ll track your dog’s wellbeing from nose to tail – helping you be their best friend too.