Why Do We Say That Dogs are man’s best friend

Pet sayings are intriguing when you begin to ask interesting questions. A teacher made an offhand comment one day to a group of third graders during a show-and-tell experience featuring his dog. “They say that dogs are man’s best friend, and I can tell you this is true when it comes to my dog.”

When he said this, a girl in the class asked, “Why are they only a man’s best friend and not a girl’s best friend.” The teacher smiled and said, “Fair enough. Dogs are possibly any person’s best friend.” The little girl smiled and said, “That’s better.”

Where does this saying come from and how did it become commonplace?

Any online research on this statement will lead you to 1870 when lawyer George Graham Vest included this statement in his closing arguments before the US Supreme Court, “The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world—the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous—is his dog.” Others will point to King Frederick of Prussia identifying his Italian Greyhound as his best friend in the 1700’s.

However, most agree the phrase went viral through the work of Ogden Nash when he wrote, “An Introduction to Dogs” and opened with this poetic language:

“The dog is man’s best friend.

He has a tail on one end.

Up in front he has teeth.

And four legs underneath.”

As Wikipedia notes, this followed and built upon recorded statements ranging from Homer’s Odyssey to the King of Prussia to Voltaire. In Ogden Nash’s writing, he was attempting to reference humans, not just men.

When it comes down to it though, every dog-loving pet parent will tell you the love, affection, loyalty, and friendship provided by their furry companion is unique and special. In the world of canine companionship, dogs truly are more than just a pet…they truly become best friends.

Next Month: Curiosity Killed the Cat


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