In the Comfort & Convenience of your Own Home
As the oldest domesticated animal species, with estimates ranging from 9,000–30,000 years BCE, the behavior of dogs has inevitably have been shaped by millennia of contact with humans. As a result of this physical and social evolution, dogs, more than any other species, have acquired the ability to understand and communicate with humans and they are uniquely attuned to our behaviors. Behavioral scientists have uncovered a surprising set of social-cognitive abilities in the domestic dog. These abilities are not expressed by the dog's closest canine relatives nor by other mammals such as great apes. Rather, these skills parallel some of the social-cognitive skills of human children.
Dog history is really the history of the partnership between dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and humans. That partnership is based on human needs for help with herding and hunting, an early alarm system, and a source of food in addition to the companionship many of us today know and love. Dogs get companionship, protection and shelter, and a reliable food source out of the deal. But when this partnership first occurred is at the moment under some controversy.
Dog history has been studied recently using mitochondrial DNA, which suggests that wolves and dogs split into different species around 100,000 years ago: but whether humans had anything to do with that, no one really knows. Recent mtDNA analysis (Boyko et al.), suggests that the origin and location of dog domestication, long thought to be in east Asia, is in some doubt.
European Paleolithic Dogs
Part of the puzzle of the domestication of dogs lies in the Upper Paleolithic of Europe, beginning perhaps as long ago as 30,000 years. Recent genome research (Thalmann et al. 2013) reports strong evidence that European Paleolithic dogs do represent a domestication event.
Evidence of a Certain Domestication Partnership
A burial site in Germany called Bonn-Oberkassel has joint human and dog interments dated to 14,000 years ago. The earliest "nobody-argues-about-it" domesticated dog was found in China at the early Neolithic (7000-5800 BC) Jiahu site in Henan Province. European Mesolithic sites like Skateholm (5250-3700 BC) in Sweden have dog burials, proving the value of the furry beasts to hunter-gatherer settlements.
Danger Cave in Utah is currently the earliest case of dog burial in the Americas, at about 11,000 years ago.
Dogs as Persons
A reanalysis (Losey and colleagues 2011) of dog burials dated to the Late Mesolithic-Early Neolithic Kitoi period in the Cis-Baikal region of Siberia suggests that in some cases, dogs were awarded "person-hood" and treated equal to fellow humans.