On August 8, the National Geographic Channel will debut the special, “And Man Created Dog,” a look at how our canine companions have evolved from wolf to man’s best friend.
The two-hour special traces man’s complex relationship with dogs, beginning almost 100,000 years ago, and ending with today’s varied breeds.
I always have a hard time when scientists take a few solid facts and then speculate on how those facts are connected. Our assumptions are filtered through our own experiences and what we know now, and the truth is that we have nothing to prove what happened 100,000 years ago.
For example, scientists speculate that wolves with tamer personalities began to hang around humans because camp was a good source of food. That makes sense, although when they depicted a mother wolf being killed and a human woman nursing the pups, I think that was a stretch. So take the ancient reenactments with a grain of salt.
Because the most fascinating part of the special is how man has gotten involved in the breeding of dogs and selecting for specific traits, and how the many breeds of dogs we see now are genetically linked to wolves.
The show focuses on a many specific breeds and shows how their skills and personality were useful to man, and how those wolves eventually became our dog. From sled dogs to herding dogs to therapy dogs to retrievers, you’ll learn more about how man has forged a complex relationship with canines. It’s really interesting to see how varied dogs are in their abilities and their personalities; I would have liked to see even more of that and fewer scientific reenactments from 100,000 years ago.
We also see how man’s involvement has caused problems for dogs. Most people don’t know that until the Victorian period, there weren’t breed standards. So while man was breeding dogs for certain characteristics – the ability to herd sheep, for example, or protect goats – there wasn’t a governing organization that put its stamp of approval on the breed. The show looks at breed-specific problems that have arisen from those standards – there’s an indepth look at the bulldog, for example.
So speculation on ancient civilizations aside, “And Man Created Dog” is a great special about dogs that the whole family can enjoy. It’ll create some talking points and give dog lovers even better insight into man’s best friend. And you will really love watching the segments about specific breeds and how they work, including a segment about a therapy dog and an Iraq war veteran and a water rescue team in Italy. It’s fascinating how smart dogs really are, how useful they are to us, and why we love them so much.
“And Man Created Dog” premieres August 8th on the National Geographic Channel. Check your local listings for more information.