A recent BBC documentary, The Secret Life of the Dog, explores research being done to explain the human/dog bond. It is highly informative, and an eye-opener, too, as it has ramifications for dog breeders and trainers. Some points that the documentary make are:
1) The presence of oxytocin in humans’ blood provides one explanation for man’s attraction to these canids. Petting or playing with a dog seems to stimulate the flow of this hormone into the blood stream.
2) Although dogs and wolves share 99.8% of their genes, and can be bred together, the two species differ vastly in their interaction with humans and their environment from each other. This bit of research further refutes the dominance theory that characterizes traditional training techniques used for dogs.
3) It appears that wolves are the main ancestor of the domesticated dog, and the physical variation that we see today in our pets stems from the very process of domestication. This conclusion is based upon research done on the silver fox where researchers found that as the generations of tame foxes born in captivity increased, so did the variation in coat color.
4) Aggression is heredity and not genetic. Again, that conclusion came from the experiments made with foxes. Only the tame animals were allowed to breed together. These pairings produced tame animals. When the aggressive animals were allowed to breed together, aggressive offspring was the results. When a cub born to aggressive parents was raised by a tame mother, the cub still grew up to be aggressive.
5) Dogs are an incredibly smart species that interact with us differently than they do with their own species. They have different barks which seem to mean different things (most dog owners already figured that out), such as a bark for excitement, a bark for anxiousness, one to warn off intruders, etc. This repertoire apparently came about through the domestication process, as wolves and other canids rarely bark.
The documentary consists of six parts. The first part is given below.