Humans have a lot of different pets, and I assume aliens would too. But the relationship between humans and dogs is kind of different. There aren't any other animals that have been as symbiotic for our survival, as well as being actual companions (maybe horses?).

I was just watching the documentary Happy People about fur trappers in the taiga and it was amazing how much those people rely on their dogs to survive, and vice versa. But they also rely on each other emotionally. I was wondering if there would probably be an analogous master/pet relationship that would emerge in most intelligent life, or if it is more unique to humans whether by luck or some characteristic of our evolutionary history.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ we don't even know how rare human level intelligence is, much less something like this. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 28 '20 at 2:53
  • $\begingroup$ I've swapped out the symbiosis tag for domestication as it seems more accurate and apt. Feel free to revert if you see fit. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '20 at 2:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For the vast majority of time the vast majority of dogs were not "pets". Even today, most dogs are pets only in rich western cities; throughout the rest of the world most dogs are not pets, for any reasonable meaning of the word "pet". For example, a shepherd's dogs are not pets, they are his work partners. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 28 '20 at 7:12


Humans are the only intelligent race that humans have ever encountered in the galaxy, at least by most definitions of 'intelligent race' and based on all available evidence at the current time of the existence of extraterrestrial life forms. At the very least, we're the most intelligent species that we know of.

That said, we can't model the behavior of other intelligent species and planets off of our own, simply because we have no idea of how accurate said models are. There's no evidence to suggest what kinds of life will arise within various planets and what kind of patterns said life will follow. It could be that every intelligent species has a domesticated species that they use in the similar vein to the ways that humans use dogs. Indeed, given the incredibly beneficial symbiotic relationship that has existed historically between humans and dogs, this does seem likely. But we don't know how likely, because we don't know how various intelligent species work. Is it a 90% chance? Is it a 10% chance? We only have 1 known instance of intelligent life evolving, so its hard to use that as the gold standard by which all of version of theoretical intelligent life could evolve by.

  • $\begingroup$ We don't know if the other species are hunters, which was a big factor in how dogs came to be domesticated. That will influence how likely it is. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Jun 28 '20 at 4:19

It is possible that some alien species may have a companion species. Looking at nature there are many symbiotic relationships between animals. But there are even more species for which this is not true, so on the balance of probabilities it is less likely, but it is obviously possible and would be expected in some cases.

It is possible that another species might find a non hunter companion. This might be a herbivore like species similar to horses suitable for riding or even something very different such as a flying animal that could somehow report movements of others creatures (vaguely in the same way that bees report on the best nectar locations by dancing), such a species might also provide nectar or other eatable items.

Animals might be sought for their ability to hear or see very well or their ability to deter predators by way of teeth, claws, stings or unpleasant secretions (skunk / bombardier beetle). It is even possible that a species might be sought for some aesthetic features like feathers (quetzal birds and peacocks).


Evolutionarily, it would often make sense for pets to evolve on planets containing organisms of human-level intelligence. As soon as a planet has intelligent beings that are capable of producing more resources than they can consume, a new environmental niche opens up centered around the “handouts” of this prosperous species.

The following conditions might promote the domestication of an animal species by your intelligent race:

  • The intelligent race stands to gain something by domesticating the dog-like animal.
    • This could be a material resource that comes directly from the animal. Think cows $\to$ milk or chickens $\to$ eggs.
    • It could also be the use of the animals’ skills. Think wolves’ ability to hunt, and dogs’ ability to help humans hunt.
    • Kinderschema. By evolving features that mimic those of the offspring of your intelligent species, the animal could appeal to their aesthetic sense of “cuteness.”
  • The animal species stands to gain something by being domesticated.
    • This probably includes food provided by their intelligent domesticators.
    • Shelter and protection from predators. Animals can gain protection by living in packs, but a pack of intelligent creatures might be even better at protecting their domesticated animals. Especially if the non-domesticated counterparts of these animals are antagonistic towards/competitive with the intelligent being, meaning that they’re at risk of being wiped out.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.