Up until about 25,000 years ago, the only source of energy available to humans beyond their own muscles was fire. Then dogs came along (Ollivier 2018; Botigue 2017). They were the first animals we domesticated. While the where and the when are still being debated (McGowan 2020; Lupo 2019; Guagin 2018), there seems to be a general consensus that the first why was hunting. Perhaps “partnered” is a better term than domesticated. They were unlike any of the other animals that we domesticated. They were companion hunters, helping humans bring down more game faster. It is estimated that hunting with dogs doubled the amount of prey taken (Ruusila 2004). This surely increased the viability of increasingly larger human groupings.
Their sense of smell also warned us of danger long before we would have been aware of it.
Later, dogs protected crops from wild animals. Joe Scott characterizes them as one of our first technologies, given how we bred them to perform specialized tasks (Scott 2019). Around 12,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia, early farmer-herders bred mastiffs to protect crops. Egyptians used pharaoh hounds for the same purpose. Greeks used molossus dogs, Indians used pariah dogs. Mayans used the Mexican hairless. Everywhere Homines sapientes settled to grow crops, they employed dogs to protect them.
As people began to domesticate other animals, dogs took on even more roles as indispensable protectors and herders (Fougea 2018).
There is a very real question as to whether we domesticated dogs or dogs domesticated us. What seems clear is that we grew together, no doubt due to the fact that we are both intensely social animals; we both live in packs. Perhaps a better way to describe what happened is that dogs elected to join our pack. It is altogether possible that the Neolithic Revolution might have been too difficult to accomplish without the crucial energy force multiplier of dogs. In a very real sense, we may owe the Neolithic Revolution’s success to Canus lupus familiarise.
[Cats, not so much. When they did appear, they acted more like independent contractors, attracted to settlements by the vermin eating the grain, but not particularly interested in any sort of long-term commitment relationship with us (see Smith 2017).]