Studies have indicated that the human relationship with dogs goes back 16,000 years to when it’s believed that dogs diverged from wolves. Recently this timeline changed when a group of researchers radiocarboned the date of a bone fragment found during an expedition to the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia. They discovered that the bone fragment was much older and from an ancient “Tamyr” wolf. The lead author of this study is Pontus Skoglund of the Harvard Medical School. This study indicates that the genome from the Tamyr wolf is the most recent common ancestor of modern day dogs and wolves. In fact, today’s Siberian Husky and the Greenland sled dogs share an unusually large number of genes with the Tamyr wolf. The genome analysis of this wolf bone indicates that humans may have had a relationship with dogs as far back as 27,000 to 40,000 years ago.
This earlier date is supported by another 2015 study by population genetics expert Peter Savolainen of Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology. This study concludes that the split of dogs from wolves occurred 33,000 years ago. This study indicates that dogs originated in Southeast Asia though.
Whenever dogs joined humans, the human dog bond continues to be strong today. Forward thinking municipalities are including “responsible dog ownership” in their bylaws to protect dogs, recognizing the relationship we have with dogs.
A study named “Dog Walking, the Human-Animal Bond and Older Adults’ Physical Health,” was recently published by “The Gerontologist.” This study showed that dog ownership in people 60 years old and more resulted in increased physical health as owners walked the dogs daily. Dog walking is associated with a lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits, more frequent exercise altogether and an increase in social benefits for humans.
A recommendation from team leader Rebecca Johnson, a professor at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing at the Sinclair school of Nursing, is to encourage retirement communities to incorporate more pet-friendly policies such as including dog walking trails and dog exercise areas so that their residents could have access to the health benefits.