By Lily Weeks
Roughly sixty-three percent of Americans own at least one dog, according to the 2019-2020 American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey. Not many Americans engage in cattle farming, not since the Wild West wound down, so there is no need for a herding dog, yet still, we breed and care for them. Not many countries have monarchies anymore, yet still, we breed dogs meant to be the pets of kings and queens. Why is that?
Well, because they’re cute. If you own a dog (and according to the survey above, odds are good that you do) you likely spend a good amount of time simply fawning over how cute they are; their little paws, their sweet round eyes, their fluffy ears! Even if you don’t own a dog, you can’t go online without coming across a photo of a sweet-faced little canine doing something suitably cute, if not simply existing. Why are we, as a society, so preoccupied with dogs? There are a few reasons.
We bred them that way.
Certain types of dogs – Malteses, King Charles Spaniels, and Pekingese among them – were specifically bred to provide companionship for their owners, as opposed to hunting or herding or guarding places or people. Naturally, these types of dogs were bred to be nice to look at. Pekingese, in particular, were bred specifically for Chinese royalty in the Forbidden City and were prized for their lionlike appearance. No self-respecting dog breeder would offer up an ugly dog to a king or queen.
They resemble human babies, which triggers our instincts.
Dogs have more fur than human babies, to be sure, and different anatomy entirely from most, but dogs and human babies share a few key features. Round eyes, a small size, and a teetering gait all remind us of babies when we look at dogs, and so the same evolutionary instinct to protect and nurture is awakened within us. If we didn’t feel the urge to take care of small, cute things, our species would likely not survive. The only trouble is, our instincts cannot tell the difference between human babies and babies of other species, which is why our ancestors fell in love with wolf cubs thousands of years ago.
You have grown up with them.
We gravitate towards things that remind us of our childhoods, even if we didn’t have an especially good one. Dogs are typically adopted by families when the children are prepubescent, and sometimes a family has had a dog before children even come into the picture. Dogs live for a long time, and when something has been in your life for upwards of ten years, you begin to love it deeply. It is simply how we are built. Your dog is cute because they’re yours.