Evolution of Farm Dog Perceptions in Western Societies


This short article explores the evolving perception of farm dogs in Western societies over the past 150 years and discusses the implications of this shift in understanding when examining dog-related customs and views in ancient and non-Western societies. We highlight three key phases: (1) late 19th and early 20th centuries, when farm dogs were primarily valued for their working abilities; (2) mid-20th century, when the rise of the pet industry and urbanization led to a decline in reliance on farm dogs for labor; and (3) late 20th and early 21st centuries, when farm dogs began to be appreciated for their companionship and emotional support.


In recent decades, the perception of farm dogs in Western societies has evolved significantly, with a growing emphasis on their emotional capacities and their roles as companions rather than solely as working animals. This article aims to analyze the historical trajectory of this shift in perception and explore the implications of these changes when examining dog-related customs and views in ancient and non-Western societies.

Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Farm Dogs as Functional Assets

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, farm dogs were primarily valued for their working abilities, bred, and raised to perform tasks such as herding livestock, guarding properties, and controlling pests. Their role was considered essential for the efficient operation of farms, but they were not generally seen as pets or family members.

Mid-20th Century

The Decline of Farm Dog Labor and the Rise of the Pet Industry

The mid-20th century saw significant changes in agricultural practices due to urbanization and industrialization. New technologies and machinery led to a reduced reliance on farm dogs for labor, and their roles shifted. Concurrently, the modern pet industry grew, and the pet-keeping culture began to emerge, contributing to the perception of dogs as companions and family members.

Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries

Farm Dogs as Emotional Companions

The late 20th and early 21st centuries marked a period of increased recognition of the cognitive and emotional capacities of dogs. Scientific research on canine behavior and cognition gained momentum, and farm dogs were increasingly seen as sentient beings capable of forming strong emotional bonds with humans.

Implications for Examining Ancient and Non-Western Societies

As our understanding of farm dogs has evolved over time, it is crucial to approach dog-related customs and practices in ancient and non-Western societies with cultural sensitivity and historical context. By doing so, we can promote dialogue and understanding among different cultures and foster an appreciation for the diverse relationships humans have had with dogs throughout history.


The perception of farm dogs has shifted significantly in Western societies over the past 150 years, from functional assets to emotional companions. Recognizing this evolution in understanding is essential when critically assessing dog-related customs and views of ancient

Further Reading

  1. Serpell, J. (1995). The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behaviour, and Interactions with People. Cambridge University Press. This book provides a comprehensive overview of the domestication, behavior, and human-dog relationships.
  2. Coppinger, R., & Coppinger, L. (2001). Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution. Scribner. This book presents an in-depth exploration of the origins, behavior, and evolution of dogs, with a focus on their roles in human societies.
  3. Miklósi, Á. (2014). Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. This book offers a thorough examination of canine cognition, behavior, and evolution, drawing on recent research findings.
  4. Bradshaw, J. (2011). Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet. Basic Books. This book delves into the science of dog behavior, offering insights into how to improve the human-dog relationship.
  5. Horowitz, A. (2009). Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. Scribner. This book provides a fascinating look into the sensory and cognitive world of dogs, allowing readers to better understand and relate to their canine companions.
  6. Hare, B., & Woods, V. (2013). The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think. Dutton. This book explores the remarkable intelligence of dogs and their unique abilities that have allowed them to become indispensable partners to humans.
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Tony Bierman, "Evolution of Farm Dog Perceptions in Western Societies," OBTESA, Accessed June 6, 2023, http://esbt.us/el.