Animals' way home: Human's best friend
Updated 11:33, 10-Feb-2019
By Ding Qian

The phrase "dogs are a man's best friend" is not just a saying. As a person who has raised a couple of dogs, I have found that our furry buddies are not just lovely and loyal, but also very smart.

Paw of a large dog in the hand of a child. /VCG Photo

Paw of a large dog in the hand of a child. /VCG Photo

According to animal psychologists, dogs are as intelligent as two-year-old children. They can understand subtle gestures and social cues, can learn words the same way children do and have the ability to generalize. They can also be trained to be guide dogs and police dogs.

A running dog /VCG Photo

A running dog /VCG Photo

Furthermore, dogs love humans and take us as part of their families. Research has shown that when dogs smell their human friends, the caudate nucleus, also called "reward center" lights up. They can empathize with us, feel us, and therefore, be a part of us.

Close-up portrait of a dog in a car. /VCG Photo

Close-up portrait of a dog in a car. /VCG Photo

It's estimated that 17 percent of Chinese households have pets, and 60 percent of pet owners raise dogs. Decades ago, dogs were mainly kept to guard houses in the countryside, but now more dogs are raised as companions and family. However, accidents happen; sometimes dogs get lost in the boisterous cities.

 A puppy. /VCG Photo

 A puppy. /VCG Photo

It is well-known that dogs have the ability to find a way home no matter the distance. There have been many movies which portray the situation anthropomorphically. In the movie "Homeward Bound," the dog and his other animal friends including a cat covered mountains and rivers to find their human friends. It might be rare for dogs to go across the country to find their way back in reality, but it's common to see dogs find directions and go home by themselves. 

It's common to see dogs go home by themselves. /VCG Photo

It's common to see dogs go home by themselves. /VCG Photo

Research has found that dogs rely on scent to navigate. They can hone in on familiar smells, such as the smell of a person, another dog or urine, and follow it for a long distance. As long as the wind condition is right, a 10-mile distance is not even far for dogs. So, if you lose your dog, you can place some of your clothes or its bed outside the door, which can help your dog find its way back to you. 

A dog with a toy /VCG Photo

A dog with a toy /VCG Photo

However, not every dog owner is committed to his or her four-legged friends. Groups of stray dogs are still commonly seen everywhere, some of them are killed by cars, some are killed by deliberate hateful actions. Profitable animal breeding also causes long-term health problems for the animal. 

But there is good news, California in the United States has taken a bold step this year, banning the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in shops unless they are from rescue centers.

 Give me five! /VCG Photo

 Give me five! /VCG Photo

Dogs have been companying us for ages. In order to deserve their unconditional love and loyalty, we still have a lot to do for our furry friends. 

Cover Image: Australian cattle dog /VCG Photo