It’s always seemed to me that the majority of people who like animals will have a strong preference for either cats or dogs; neutrality is rare. Me, I’m definitely a cat person. Still, in the age-old question of which species is the smarter, I’d have to concede that dogs are more intelligent. Either that, or their intelligence is the kind that we understand and relate to.
But it’s not true that cats can’t be trained, as a quick search of YouTube will confirm. Some cats have even been trained to use the big human toilet, and a few will flush afterwards. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1edDfzluXE) Most dog owners think themselves lucky if the dog doesn’t crap on the carpet.
But look into a dog’s eyes and you can tell what he’s thinking. (Like “I hope he doesn’t find where I crapped on the carpet.”) There’s a real sense that something is going on in his head, and it’s perhaps simpler, but not a lot different from ourselves. And he wants to relate to you; socialise. Cats aren’t like that. They do what they do when it suits them and they don’t give a damn about you until it comes to food time, or scratch-behind-the-ears time.
Archaeologists have found dog bones in human-occupied sites from about 17,000 years ago and assumed that domestication started then, but geneticists have found that dogs and wolves diverged at least 130,000 years ago. The only reasonable conclusion, although the archaeologists still don’t like it, is that they’re wrong. Humans began to domesticate wolves into dogs in the very ancient past, and they’ve been living with us (and crapping on the carpet) ever since. Compare that with the cat, who only found a job vacancy with the start of agriculture and stockpiling food. No earlier than about 10,000 years ago, or less than a tenth of the timespan of the domesticated dog.
I like the theory that humans and dogs co-evolved during the 130,000 years. They’ve become more human: learned to vocalise, guard territory, and fit into the human “pack”; and we’ve become more doggy: in the way we have a heirarchical social structure, the way we hunt co-operatively, and the way we have sex. (What? Don’t you? Oh, OK.)
Actually it’s that need that dogs have to fit into the social structure that I don’t like about them. They willingly, eagerly adopt a subservient attitude to the human pack leader; and that look of complete adoration and devotion they give you, well, frankly, I find it very creepy. I much prefer animals, and people, who have their own independence and treat me as an equal.