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When Did People Start Keeping Dogs As Pets? Vet-Verified Facts & Timeline

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on April 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

male owner hugging and kissing his pet dog

When Did People Start Keeping Dogs As Pets? Vet-Verified Facts & Timeline


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

BVM BVS MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs are amazing animals that help improve the lives of millions of people around the world every single day, and they have been doing so for a long time. In fact, canines may have been a good friend of humanity’s for as long as 29,000 years, although it is a controversial topic 1. Keep reading as we dig into the history of these amazing animals to find out how they came to be a part of our lives and the different roles that they’ve had over time.

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Dogs Throughout Time

16,000 Years Ago

There is evidence that dogs began to appear in modern-day Nepal and Mongolia around 16,000 years ago, when humans were still primarily hunter-gatherers. They likely descended from wolves, which might have been starting to follow humans to pick up the food scraps that they left behind.

15,000 Years Ago

Most scientists seem to agree that dogs were the first species to be tamed by this time, mostly because of the Bonn-Oberkassel dog 2. Carbon dating shows that this dog is 14,220 years old, and scientists found it buried with two humans.

Khao Chan Ngam, Nakhon Ratchasima ancient paintings in cave
Image Credit: Chaiwut, Shutterstock

14,000–6,000 Years Ago

Paleolithic dogs with skulls similar to those of Central Asian Shepherd Dogs appeared in Europe around 12,000 years ago and were significantly different from wolves. Evidence also exists that more people started to keep dogs, possibly as pets, around this time. Ancient breeders in China and Europe started to tame the dogs, and DNA studies show that all of today’s dogs are descendants of the European dogs.

There is also evidence that dogs existed in modern-day Colorado as far back as 11,000 years ago and in Texas 9,400 years ago, giving them a substantial history in North America.

Ancient Rome

Toy breeds started to become popular in Ancient Rome around 2,000 years ago, and it may have been in response to the rising rat problem that was also occurring at the time. Several modern breeds may have ancestors that go back to this time, including the Mastiff, Greyhound, Cane Corso, Rottweiler, and Bloodhound.


During the 1800s, people primarily kept dogs as working animals and usually needed them to hunt, herd, or guard. Breeders perfected selective breeding techniques, which enabled them to create dogs with certain characteristics that would help them do their jobs better. For instance, some dogs needed water resistant coats so they could swim, while others needed thick and protective coats to help them deal with cold temperatures. Pets were usually only for the wealthiest people, at least until the late 1800s, when they started to become popular with the middle class due to the formation of kennel clubs and the introduction of dog shows.

a vintage photo of a woman and her dog
Image Credit: Everett Collection, Shutterstock


The early 1900s saw many dogs take on important responsibilities as messengers, mascots, and search-and-rescue workers during World War 1 and World War 2, which helped highlight their intelligence and reliability, thus increasing their popularity. By the mid-1900s, pet ownership started to take hold, and we saw the first commercial pet foods and pet care products, which helped make dog ownership more accessible. By the late 1900s, advances in veterinary care and animal behavior science improved the lives of pets almost everywhere, and we started to see the emergence of laws and regulations regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership.


The role of dogs in our lives continued to evolve, with much less reliance on them to complete tasks or jobs and more focus on pets as emotional-support and therapy animals. Many people now keep a dog just to have a wonderful companion, with no requirements of them at all. During the COVID-19 pandemic, dogs became even more popular, and there are currently more than 65 million households in the United States with at least one, making them the most popular pets, ahead of cats.

a young couple owners with their golden retriever dog
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

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People likely started keeping dogs as pets a little over 14,000 years ago.  Scientists have found two humans buried with a dog, dating from that time, but since there wasn’t any accompanying form of writing or record keeping, it’s hard to say exactly the relationship that the dog had with the humans. We do know that canines were quite popular during Roman times, with several modern breeds having ancestors dating to that time, more than 2,000 years ago.

While dogs have been with us for thousands of years, it seems that they are having their best time right now, as millions of homes around the world have at least one dog that they fuss over and spoil rotten, and there are so many different breeds to choose from too!

Featured Image Credit: Lizardflms, Shutterstock

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