The scientific evidence is mixed as to whether companionship of a dog can enhance human physical health and psychological wellbeing. Studies suggesting that there are benefits to physical health and psychological wellbeing have been criticised for being poorly controlled, and finding that "the health of elderly people is related to their health habits and social supports but not to their ownership of, or attachment to, a companion animal." Earlier studies have shown that people who keep pet dogs or cats exhibit better mental and physical health than those who do not, making fewer visits to the doctor and being less likely to be on medication than non-guardians.
Unlike other domestic species which were primarily selected for production-related traits, dogs were initially selected for their behaviors. In 2016, a study found that there were only 11 fixed genes that showed variation between wolves and dogs. These gene variations were unlikely to have been the result of natural evolution, and indicate selection on both morphology and behavior during dog domestication. These genes have been shown to affect the catecholamine synthesis pathway, with the majority of the genes affecting the fight-or-flight response (i.e. selection for tameness), and emotional processing. Dogs generally show reduced fear and aggression compared with wolves. Some of these genes have been associated with aggression in some dog breeds, indicating their importance in both the initial domestication and then later in breed formation. Traits of high sociability and lack of fear in dogs may include genetic modifications related to Williams-Beuren syndrome in humans, which cause hypersociability at the expense of problem solving ability.