City Cast

3 Questions About Human-Dog Relationships with an Anthropologist

Adrian González
Adrian González
Posted on August 3   |   Updated on August 16
An adorable dog gives its owner a sniff while they try to take a photo together.

An adorable dog gives its owner a sniff. (Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash)

It’s no secret that Boiseans love dogs, but when did that human-dog relationship become so symbiotic? We spoke to anthropologist Shelly Volsche with the ECHOS Lab at Boise State University to learn the science of our love for dogs.

While we’re talking about fur babies, I want to remind you that we’re talking to a Boise dog trainer next week and we want to ask them your questions. So, what dog behavior issues are you and your dog struggling with?

This interview has been edited for clarity.

When in history did dogs and humans become best friends?

“That's a bit of a loaded question because we've got what the genetics say and then we've got what archaeology says. Our best answer is that somewhere between 20,000 to 30,000 years ago we probably had a proto dog, not quite a dog, but no longer a wolf, walking around with us. We probably were integrating with them long before they were formally dogs, probably [because of] our ability to cooperate on hunting and foraging.”

Can our dogs love us back?

“We've reached a point in canine science where we no longer go, ‘can they [love us back]?’ Rather we're asking, ‘how do they [love us]?’  The concerns of anthropomorphism have gotten in the way of our natural instinct to read and communicate with [our dogs]. In reality, our body language is saying just as much to our dogs and we can listen to them in exchange.”

Why do you think Boise is such a dog-loving city?

“We're in an environment where there's a lot of outdoor activity and I think that that natural tendency to try to be and want to be in touch with nature leads us naturally to wanting to have animals around us.”

Hey Boise

Want to know what's happening in Boise? Sign up for our free newsletter, Hey Boise. Packed with local news, curated event recs, local life hacks, and more, it's your daily toolkit for getting the most out of the city you love.

The latest in Boise