Early roles of Dogs

Wolves, and their dog descendants, would have derived significant benefits from living in human camps—more safety, more reliable food, lesser caloric needs, and more chance to breed. They would have benefited from humans’ upright gait that gives them larger range over which to see potential predators and prey, as well as color vision that, at least by day, gives humans better visual discrimination. Camp dogs would also have benefitted from human tool use, as in bringing down larger prey and controlling fire for a range of purposes.

Humans would also have derived enormous benefit from the dogs associated with their camps. For instance, dogs would have improved sanitation by cleaning up human waste and food scraps. Dogs may have provided warmth, as referred to in the Australian Aboriginal expression “three dog night” and they would have alerted the camp to the presence of predators or strangers, using their acute hearing to provide an early warning. Anthropologists believe the most significant benefit would have been the use of dogs' sensitive sense of smell to assist with the hunt. The relationship between the presence of a dog and success in the hunt is often mentioned as a primary reason for the domestication of the wolf, and a 2004 study of hunter groups with and without a dog gives quantitative support to the hypothesis that the benefits of cooperative hunting was an important factor in wolf domestication.

The cohabitation of dogs and humans would have greatly improved the chances of survival for early human groups, and the domestication of dogs may have been one of the key forces that led to modern humans. Anthropologists Tacon and Pardoe argue that the effects of human-canine cohabitation on humans would have been profound, and hypothesize that some of the effects could have been moving from scavenging to large game hunting, the establishment and marking of territories, living in optimally sized social groups, hunting/working in synchronised teams, and negotiating partnership bonds. The human-dog partnership set both species on a new evolutionary course.

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