Image: Wesley
Reuters
Wesley, a sixth-generation labradoodle-to-labradoodle cross, has an allergy-friendly fleece coat that doesn't shed, according to his Australian breeder.
updated 6/21/2004 12:45:33 PM ET 2004-06-21T16:45:33

Canines have lived with humans for thousands of years. Like other domesticated animals, dogs originally worked for a living, providing protection for their human companions and helping out on the hunt. But somewhere along the line, dogs became part of the family. Today, many people treat their dogs like children, giving them gourmet meals, spa treatments, birthday parties and luxury dog vacations. Some even go so far as to take problem dogs to pet psychiatrists.

But not all dogs live pampered lives of leisure. Many still work, earning their keep in movies and television, or providing assistance for the ill and handicapped. Police dogs play an important role in law enforcement, helping sniff out drugs and other contraband and tracking down — and taking down — dangerous criminals. Harvard anthropologist Brian Hare has found some tantalizing clues that help explain why dogs are so uniquely effective at working for humans and which suggest that dogs may be more in control of our relationships with them than we might like to think. 

Our love for dogs also has a dark side. A group of dog-loving volunteers goes undercover to investigate the demand for pet dogs, particularly purebreds. Such demand has fostered an under-regulated breeding industry that is contributing to increased genetic problems in dogs.

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer’sMireya Mayor investigates the ancient, but evolving relationship between humans and dogs. What skills do dogs have that make them so well suited for living and working with humans? Are we putting too much pressure on our four-legged friends to conform to our modern-day lifestyles and expectations? Mayor explores these questions and more as she delves deep into the world of man’s best friend.

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