Dog, facts and photos

what is a domestic dog?

The term “domestic dog” refers to any of the several hundred breeds of dogs that currently exist in the world. Although the appearance of these animals varies dramatically, all dogs, from the Chihuahua to the Great Dane, are members of the same species, canis familiaris. this separates domestic dogs from wild canines, such as coyotes, foxes, and wolves.

Most domestic dogs are kept as pets, although many breeds are capable of surviving on their own, whether in the woods or on city streets. One-third of all households worldwide own a dog, according to a 2016 Consumer Insights study. This makes the domestic dog the most popular pet on the planet.

evolutionary origins

All dogs are descended from a species of wolf, but not from the gray wolf (canis lupus), as many people assume. In fact, DNA evidence suggests that the now-extinct wolf ancestor of modern dogs was Eurasian. however, scientists are still working to understand exactly which species gave rise to dogs.

When dogs split from their wild ancestors is also a mystery, but genetics suggest it happened between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago.

While it’s impossible to say exactly how a wild wolf species became a domesticated dog, most scientists believe the process occurred gradually as wolves became more comfortable with humans. perhaps wolves started down this path simply by eating human remains. many generations later, humans might have encouraged wolves to stay close by actively feeding them. later still, those wolves may have been welcomed into the human home and eventually bred to foster certain traits. all of this is believed to have developed over thousands of years.

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dog breeds

Today, many of the dogs you know and love are the product of selective breeding among individuals with desirable traits, whether physical or behavioral. For example, around 9,500 years ago, ancient peoples began to breed dogs that were better able to survive and work in the cold. these dogs would become the family of sled dogs, including breeds such as huskies and malamutes, which remains relatively unchanged today.

Similarly, humans bred German Shepherds for their ability to herd cattle, Labrador Retrievers to help gather ducks and other animals hunted by hunters, and sausage-shaped dachshunds for their ability to run down a burrow after of a badger Many more breeds were created to meet other human needs, such as home protection and vermin control.

Certain breeds have also been created to make dogs more desirable as companions. for example, the labradoodle, which combines the traits of a labrador retriever and a poodle, was invented as an attempt to create a hypoallergenic guide dog.

modern working dogs

While people rely less on dogs for daily tasks than in the past, there are still plenty of modern jobs for dogs.

Because the domestic dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than ours, canines now help law enforcement by sniffing out drugs, explosives, and even electronics. They can also help conservationists find and protect endangered species using their super-powerful schnozzes.

help search and rescue teams after natural disasters or outdoor missing person reports. Dogs trained to warn of hidden explosives and enemies serve as allies in military operations. other dogs help the police search for jail escapees or the bodies of murder victims. instead, some team up with customs officials in search of contraband, from drugs to elephant ivory. still others lead the way by tracking down poachers, patrolling cargo ships for rats that might escape in distant ports, or exposing forest insect pests in lumber shipments from overseas.

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Similarly, dogs can sniff out early signs of Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, various types of cancer, impending seizures, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. guide people who are deaf and blind, and help people with autism and post-traumatic stress disorder manage anxiety.

living with dogs

Most dogs are mixed breeds: In 2015, one study estimated that only 5% of dogs in shelters are purebreds. Just as dogs come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, these animals also come in a spectrum of temperaments. a bulldog can look fierce but be cuddly like a kitten, while a cute cocker spaniel can bite your finger without a second thought.

This is why animal handling expert Jack Hanna recommends teaching children to always be careful around a dog they don’t know. for example, he says that children should ask the dog’s owner for permission before attempting to pet or play with the animal. Offering an outstretched hand also allows the dog to get acquainted with a new person before reaching behind his head where he can’t see what you’re doing, which could make him nervous or scared. Finally, he never allows children to bring their faces close to the dog’s snout.

“I don’t care what kind of dog it is,” Hanna told national geographic. “The owner may say, ‘Well, this dog has never bitten anyone before,’ but that’s not the point. the point is that it can happen.”

Of course, when dogs are properly cared for and treated with respect, they can be incredibly loving, playful, and intelligent companions. Plus, by understanding where dogs come from, pet owners can learn to appreciate them even more.

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After all, the howling and tail wagging your dog makes when you grab a bag of treats are holdovers from when his ancestors needed to communicate with other members of their social group. chasing sticks and balls may be related to the search for prey, while digging in the carpet or in a dog’s bed echoes how a wild canid would prepare its sleeping area. And every time Fido stops to sniff a fire hydrant on your walk, he’s analyzing the pheromones left behind by another dog’s urine.

We take these behaviors for granted because dogs have become “man’s best friend.” But deep inside every Pit Bull and Pomeranian, there are hints of the past.

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