Have you ever seen a dog make friends with another animal and wondered why they get along so well? Current research suggests that it’s because of traits that we have bred into domestic dogs. They’re extremely sociable and accepting, making them perfect companions. So next time you see a dog making friends with another kind of animal, don’t be surprised – it’s just in their nature!
The Leopard and the Golden
In South Africa, Salati the leopard and Tommy the golden retriever became unlikely best friends, thanks to their daily morning exercise routine. Richard Brooker, an animal wrangler by trade, adopted Salati from a local vet that helped rehabilitate the previously injured Salati. The two quickly became inseparable. The two are never seen apart, always seeming to be running around the family property together.
Dogs’ personalities aren’t the only thing that selective breeding has changed, though. Many of today’s most popular breeds display something the scientific community calls neotony, or the retention of juvenile characteristics that persist into adulthood. In simpler terms, this means many dog’s today have been bred so that they are effectively puppies for their entire lives.
Dogs have been bred for centuries to display certain traits and characteristics. In more recent years, however, the trend has been to breed dogs that retain juvenile characteristics into adulthood – a phenomenon known as neotony. This means that many of today’s popular dog breeds are effectively puppies for their entire lives!
Floppy Ears and Big Eyes, awww!
Neotonized breeds tend to have floppy ears, really big round eyes, and shorter snouts. These characteristics are not only adorable; dogs with them are more inclined to be friendly towards other creatures. To put it another way, if you want your dog to establish an interspecies best friendship, it helps if they’re a neotonized breed.
Less neotonized dog breeds have more traditionally “wild” characteristics, like upright ears, long snouts, and a stronger hunting instinct. These dogs can be friendly just like any other breed, but they’re less likely to develop friendships with animals outside of their own species.
But, there is an exception to this tendency.
The Pheromone Connection
Interspecies friendships can form with less neotonized dogs and very young animals. Because all young creatures release pheromones that elicit protective reactions in older animals, all young mammals have them. The wonderful thing about these pheromones is that they are the same across species, making interspecies reactions more probable.
When a young mammal and dog form a bond, the animal is protected for an extended period of time. This explained why some dogs are willing to nurse or nurture orphan animals from different species; the newborn’s presence causes intense bonding feelings.
Growing Up Together Means Family
The third reason some dogs are able to form interspecies friendships is that they grew up with them from early on. Animals form their strongest bonds when they’re young. This is likely due to the fact that young animals are more open to new experiences and less set in their ways than older animals. Therefore, if a dog is raised with another animal from a young age, they are more likely to form a strong bond with that animal.
If animals of different species come into contact with each other when they are very young, their relationship will develop and change while they are still learning social behavior. The early nature of the relationship can shape future interactions between the two animals in a way that goes against natural instincts or later training.
Who Can Argue with Friendship?
While it is certainly possible for dogs of any age or breed to form bonds with other animals, neotonized breeds are more likely to develop close friendships with creatures outside of their own species. This is likely due to their juvenile characteristics, which make them more inclined to be friendly and open to new experiences. Whether it’s a dog’s natural inclination or early exposure to other animals, it’s clear that there are many reasons why some dogs develop strong bonds with creatures from different species.
Wondering Where the Cat Buddies Are?
Wonder no more. Check out this post: 12 Dog Breeds That Get Along Well With Cats