Are Dogs Paving the Way?

Dogs are pack animals and yet some greet each other on the street. The dog park phenomenon is an intriguing new invention. The Humane Society warned my daughter about the inappropriateness of dog parks when she was training to work as a volunteer in the dog shelter. As pack animals, dogs are not supposed to play with unfamiliar dogs. And yet they do.

Dogs seem to be evolving to feel so safe alone that they can play with strange dogs as long as the strange dog signals safety in return. Stephen Porges, the scientist who wrote The Polyvagal Theory, uses dog signaling when explaining what he calls our social engagement system. According to Porges, we can be like dogs. We can use our social engagement system to signal safety and that helps us all play together.

Temple Grandin, explains in her book Animals in Translation ways that dogs evolved to be man’s best friend. Perhaps they are now evolving to show us how to get along. Perhaps they are teaching us how to play with animals that are not part of our pack.

To understand more about polyvagal theory, go to