Mark Vette – Internationally renowned Animal Behaviourist, Educator, Author and TV personality

A long history of friendship

Hey there, welcome to another one of my blog posts. I love looking at the evolution between us and dogs and studying the development of our relationships, so this month I’ll be talking about some of the science behind it all.

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Having studied wolves and dogs for over 40 years. This topic is dear to my heart and is part of the book I’m writing around Dog Zen. Humans formed a collaborative and cooperative hunting relationship with wolves tens of thousands of years ago. By working together to hunt food as a team, both species were able to establish an advantage over other predators. This helped both species survive during harsh times when food was scarce. This co-evolution is the basis of the subtle relationship that we have with dogs today – even if we no longer rely on them to help us catch our dinner, they aren’t called man’s best friend for no reason.

As this evolution has developed, the modern dog has become more attuned to us. They consider us part of their pack and look to us as their mentors and family members, and this forms the basis for my philosophy and approach to dog training. It’s not so much about establishing yourself as an alpha, but more about being a guiding mentor and family member that your dog looks to for direction.

The human-dog bond is almost identical to the human-human bond. Dogs and humans have brains that work in the same way. Neurons fire in similar patterns and we also share the bonding hormone – oxytocin that helps us form strong connections. Oxytocin is often referred to as the ‘cuddling hormone’ and studies have shown your levels of oxytocin can rise to the same levels when you greet loved ones as you would when you greet your dog. This connection to dogs allows them to form an important part of our society, from substance detection dogs right up to guide dogs. They really are invaluable to us all. As our relationship develops, humans and dogs continue to accomplish amazing feats together – last year we taught a dog to identify Kauri dieback to help combat the spread of this disease, not to mention the rescue dog we taught to fly a plane!

Who knows what we’ll be able to achieve together next?

All the best,

Mark

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