From Max Cryer’s book Every Dog has its Day
Dogs have not always been prized as friends or ‘family members’. Historically they have sometimes been seen as pariahs and scavengers of the streets. Other dogs were regarded as useful for hunting but may have been given the crudest of shelters, surviving on food scraps from the master’s table.
During the 1500s the term ‘dog’s life’ came into being in England, comparing anyone impoverished or living in drudgery with the life of a less than respected dog. Other classes of dogs did exist: companions to the wealthy; rural snow dogs whose work was respected. But the curs, the strays and the scavengers appeared to live an unwelcome and miserable existence and their life was a struggle. So in 1542, when Erasmus wrote: ‘The most parte of folks calleth it a miserable life, or a dogges life’, he was referring to those on the dog ladder’s lower rungs. Fortunately many dogs now lead lives filled with joyful and active contentment.