Most good people love dogs because dogs are naturally happy, they are lovable, and, well, because most good dogs love us.
The joyousness of dogs, or at any rate their great affability, must have been a significant factor in their induction into human communities. The usual utilitarian view that dogs were first put to practical uses – hunting, guarding, pulling – and only later became inserted into family life as pets is implausible. In several modern-day hunter-gatherer tribes, whose form of life is thought to resemble that of our Palaeolithic ancestors, dogs are companions first and workers second. This shouldn’t be surprising. Dogs could never have been properly trained in the intelligent skills required to, say, assist hunters except by people whose empathy with them was acquired through living with these animals. Konrad Lorenz was right to speculate that the appeal which playful puppies have for children, and indeed their parents, was crucial to their adoption into our ancestors’ communities. Nor should one ignore the emotional service that dogs – their geniality and affection increasingly selected for over the centuries – have rendered to humankind, in addition to their contributions as herders, hunters, guides and much else. As John Bradshaw, a leading authority on the lives of dogs, remarks, companion animals “allow us to have experiences and express behaviours once crucial to our survival”, to obey “Pleistocene instincts embedded in our genes”.