Their long association with humans has led dogs to be uniquely attuned to human behavior and they are able to thrive on a starch-rich diet that would be inadequate for other canid species. Dogs vary widely in shape, size and colors. They perform many roles for humans, such as hunting, herding, pulling loads, protection, assisting police and military, companionship and, more recently, aiding disabled people and therapeutic roles. This influence on human society has given them the sobriquet of "man's best friend".
"The most widespread form of interspecies bonding occurs between humans and dogs" and the keeping of dogs as companions, particularly by elites, has a long history. (As a possible example, at the Natufian culture site of Ain Mallaha in Israel, dated to 12,000 BC, the remains of an elderly human and a four-to-five-month-old puppy were found buried together). However, pet dog populations grew significantly after World War II as suburbanization increased. In the 1950s and 1960s, dogs were kept outside more often than they tend to be today (using the expression "in the doghouse" to describe exclusion from the group signifies the distance between the doghouse and the home) and were still primarily functional, acting as a guard, children's playmate, or walking companion. From the 1980s, there have been changes in the role of the pet dog, such as the increased role of dogs in the emotional support of their human guardians. People and dogs have become increasingly integrated and implicated in each other's lives, to the point where pet dogs actively shape the way a family and home are experienced.
^ Lindblad-Toh, K.; Wade, C.M.; Mikkelsen, T.S.; Karlsson, E.K.; Jaffe, D.B.; Kamal, M.; Clamp, M.; Chang, J.L.; Kulbokas, E.J.; Zody, M.C.; Mauceli, E.; Xie, X.; Breen, M.; Wayne, R.K.; Ostrander, E.A.; Ponting, C.P.; Galibert, F.; Smith, D.R.; Dejong, P.J.; Kirkness, E.; Alvarez, P.; Biagi, T.; Brockman, W.; Butler, J.; Chin, C.W.; Cook, A.; Cuff, J.; Daly, M.J.; Decaprio, D.; et al. (2005). "Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog". Nature. 438 (7069): 803–819. Bibcode:2005Natur.438..803L. doi:10.1038/nature04338. PMID 16341006.
Human emigrants from Siberia that came across the Bering land bridge into North America likely had dogs in their company. Although one writer even suggests that the use of sled dogs may have been critical to the success of the waves that entered North America roughly 12,000 years ago, the earliest archaeological evidence of dog-like canids in North America dates from about 9,400 years ago.:104 Dogs were an important part of life for the Athabascan population in North America, and were their only domesticated animal. Dogs as pack animals may have contributed migration of the Apache and Navajo tribes 1,400 years ago. This use of dogs in these cultures often persisted after the introduction of the horse to North America.
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