When hunting in the traditional times, dogs were particularly useful in catching small antelope or other small prey. Sometimes the dogs would run well ahead of the hunter and catch the prized animal well before the hunter arrives. On other occasions the dogs would have gone hunting on their own for hare. Both scenarios meant that dogs could sometimes be confronted by another predator that was interested in that same prey like hyenas. Due to their scavenging traits, hyenas will attack as a pack making it difficult for one dog to fend them off. But two dogs working together always stand a better chance to protect their gain and they can face the hyenas from different sides. With this example our ancestors cemented the importance of combing efforts to protect a common cause.
The proverb is used to encourage cooperation and alliances in engaging in tasks or confronting challenges that affect both parties. It is particularly effective when relating to two persons of similar stature having their mutual interest challenged. The proverb can also be used to explain defeat where there was an opportunity for a combined effort to develop a stronger front.