21 Nov

Why do our dogs stay with us? 

This a question I ask myself often. 

An estimated 34 thousand years ago according to research wild dogs and primitive man bonded over a mutual benefit. 

  • The wild dogs learned they could benefit from the remains of the food that the humans could not eat or use.
  • The humans then realised that having wild dogs living around their encampments offered protection from other dangers and prey.

This arrangement appeared to work for both parties for thousands of years until the primitive men evolved into the humans we have now become. 

These humans evolved to became farmers, traders and property owners and the dogs came along for the journey and were “trained” for want of a better word or learned to help with various tasks such as looking after livestock, killing vermin, protecting people and property for being fed and given somewhere dry to sleep, it was a win/win situation. 

They eventually began to breed the dogs that did the jobs best with each other to ensure they had a regular supply of dogs to do the work they required. This was the beginning of dogs becoming domesticated. But these dogs chose to hang around as they received food and shelter kept them safe for the work they did., They were not kept in the house so were free to leave if they wished as they were not locked in or tethered. This was still a mutually beneficial arrangement and the dogs were treated in similar ways to the other livestock  

As the centuries moved on, they became more attached to these outdoor dogs and brought them into their homes for companionship and they were beginning to being thought of as their property 

Fast forward to about 200 years ago their expectations for our dogs began to change and they essentially became captive animals that live in our homes under our rules. 

They then started choosing to breeding from dogs just for their working skills but for their looks. This is where the dogs were given names and became breeds we now know and love and the Kennel Club was formed, and they began registering dogs and calling them pedigree and dog showing selling dogs for commercial reasons began. 

50 years ago since I first became interested in dogs, they had much more freedom and were allowed to practice normal and healthy animal behaviours, 

Today when their life has become far more constrained, most dogs still choose to come back and stay even when given the freedom to roam on the occasions we decide to let them off their leads.

Life has changed in many ways since then for us and our dogs such as: 

  • There are many more dogs living with families
  • New breeding practices (some good and others not so)
  • More laws and rules about where dogs can go and what they can do
  • Rehoming of dogs from other countries
  • Changes in family and work situations
  • Increased expectations for them to conform to our lives
  • Dogs being bred as fashion accessories

So, I ask the question again “Why do our dogs stay with us?”

My answer to this is that it is because they are very very special animals and we sometimes do not appreciate how special they are. Most dogs regardless of how they are treated by us show us such undivided loyalty and affection. This should be respected and we should thank them every day for putting up with our inconsistency and unpredictability. 

Even though they have been manipulated by selective breeding, providing them with food and safety in return for working for us and in some cases by coercion and punishment by us over the millennia. They still seem to be happy to share their lives with us.

Due to this they have therefore forgotten or had diluted many of their natural survival instincts as we now  mainly with good intentions closely manage their lives. 


  • Feed and provide water regularly, so they do not need to find it for themselves
  • Provide them with comfortable beds and shelter so they are warm and dry
  • Manage their breeding by selecting partners for our convenience or “de-sexing” by spaying or castration, so they are unable to breed by choice.
  • Provide health and medical care via vets and other professionals
  • Do our best to protect them from fear, danger or undue stress

This may seem like they have a charmed life but we may be stifling their natural instincts which may ultimately cause them to find ways to practice these instincts. Which could be thought of as unwanted behaviour and may be upsetting to you and others, but your dog may be only releasing pent up frustration. 

We cannot turn back time but it is our responsibility to ensure our dogs given safe and appropriate access to their natural instincts to repay them for this amazing kindness they show us every day and forgive them from time to time if they sometimes forget our crazy (to them) expectations due to fear, loneliness and frustration.

Ways we can repay them: 

  • Allowing them a regular opportunity to do the natural activities they love such as sniffing. barking, chewing, foraging, digging and playing. By providing appropriate toys or wild areas in the garden and ensuring they are taken to areas they can investigate.
  • Provide indoor enrichment and fun activities if they do not have easy access to and outdoor space or at times when you are unable to take them out.  
  • Responding kindly and happily to their communication which may be looking at you, bringing a toy, nudging or inviting you to play by giving them a few minutes of your time whenever possible.
  • Give them freedom to move, they need to be able to move or run freely. If you don’t have a secure large outside area where they can be free to roam, take them to a suitable and safe area such as a park or other open area where they can be free if they are happy with other people and dogs or hire a secure dog field if they prefer to exercise alone without distraction.
  • Allow them to make their own choices when they encounter something new or something we know they are unhappy about. This is more difficult for them when they are on a lead so we should be aware of their nonverbal communication and do everything we can to help them out of a bad situation or into a good one.
  • Be an emotional support by giving them what they need when they need it. Such as unconditional love and attention, a place of safety, security and solitude. Ensure you are predictable and consistent, just like us they need to know what to expect from others.
  • Accepting them for who they are as they accept us every day for who we are as we would any other member of our family.

So, please remember our dogs stay with us because they are the special ones and we have over the millennia diluted their survival instinct & changed their personality so much they would find it virtually impossible to live a natural existence. 

Therefore in this modern world they need us more than we need them.

They have done everything they could to adapt and to fit in with us than and historically we have expected it and accepted it. It is now up to us to redress the balance.

So we should thank them every day for putting up with us and our fickle natures

If you would like to understand how to help your dog live a happy and fulfilling life living with us or any other training or behaviour issue consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviourist who offers gentle, rewarding & pain free methods for guidance and support. 

If you would like to speak with me  Click Here to contact Gill at Speaking Spaniel dog training & behaviour support 



07595 217299

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