The phrase "man's best friend" is a little problematic. After all, we live in a more enlightened age that values equality of the sexes. Besides, there are plenty of ladies out there with a furry best friend that walks about on four legs.
But redefining this old adage is about more than political correctness. It's about historical accuracy. Because animal researchers are starting to think that women played a crucial role in forming emotional bonds between humans and dogs.
Woman's best friend
Dr Jaime Chambers, the author of the study, said:
"We found that dogs' relationships with women might have had a greater impact on the dog-human bond than relationships with men."
Chambers and his team examined writings from ancient cultures all over the world. They showed evidence that women were more involved in creating a sense of "personhood" in dogs traditionally used as guard animals or hunting companions.
Personhood means extending human feeling towards animals. Naming dogs, letting them sleep in our beds, and mourning their passing are all examples of "personing." And women - generally speaking - tend to display more behaviours that help "person" our dogs and form emotional bonds, including empathy, physical affection, and trust.
But these early pets didn't get a free ride. Scientists argue that dogs highly valued for their hunting and guarding skills were more likely to be "personed." This then created a positive feedback loop where dogs learned to earn their privileged status by repeating actions that benefited their human partners.
Cuddles are free now
"Dogs and humans chose each other," said Dr Chambers. "And it's been a very successful relationship."
Things are a little different now. Today's dogs don't need to chase prey or bark at strangers to get a cuddle. Just being there is enough. Because having a best friend who never judges or lets you down is worth all the treats in the world.