Description

Dogs are a common domestic pet, of which there are a large variety of breeds. Throughout history, dogs have been known as "man's best friend", because in general they enjoy human company and attention.

Dogs are territorial animals; some dogs will fight off any intruders to their and their owner's land. However, when they are familiar with a person they will not express these actions.

There is a large number of breeds - although across these breeds dogs can have very different features (such as size, coat thickness, color and shape), some features are common to all dogs. All dogs walk on four feet, and most of them share similar body language.

Overview

Origins

Some research appears to show that dogs were domesticated from wolves as recently as 15,000 years ago, or perhaps as early as 100,000 years ago based upon recent genetic, fossil and DNA evidence. Other research suggests that dogs have only been domesticated for a much shorter amount of time and were domesticated from populations of wild dogs, which had previously diverged from wolves.

New evidence suggests that dogs were first domesticated in East Asia, possibly China, and the first peoples to enter North America took dogs with them from Asia. Genetic research has identified 14 ancient dog breeds, with the oldest being the Chow Chow, Shar Pei, Akita Inu, Shiba Inu and Basenji. Because many of the 14 breeds are associated with China and Japan, the theory that the dog originated in Asia seems to be likely.

As humans migrated around the planet a variety of dog forms migrated with them. The agricultural revolution and subsequent urban revolution led to an increase in the dog population and a demand for specialization. These circumstances would provide the opportunity for selective breeding to create specialized working dogs and pets. Source - Dog Training Book

Human relationships

Dogs, like humans, are highly social animals and this similarity in their overall behavioral pattern accounts for their trainability, playfulness, and ability to fit into human households and social situations. This similarity has earned dogs a unique position in the realm of interspecies relationships.

The loyalty and devotion that dogs demonstrate as part of their natural instincts as pack animals closely mimics the human idea of love and friendship, leading many dog owners to view their pets as full-fledged family members. Conversely, dogs seem to view their human companions as members of their pack, and make few, if any, distinctions between their owners and fellow dogs. Dogs fill a variety of roles in human society and are often trained as working dogs. For dogs that do not have traditional jobs, a wide range of dog sports provide the opportunity to exhibit their natural skills. In many countries, the most common and perhaps most important role of dogs is as companions.

Dogs have lived and worked with humans in so many roles that their loyalty has earned them the unique sobriquet "man's best friend". However, some cultures consider dogs to be unclean. In some parts of the world, dogs are raised as livestock to produce dog meat for human consumption. In many places, consumption of dog meat is discouraged by social convention or cultural taboo. Source - Dog Behavior Training


Intelligence

Among dog lovers, dogs are generally valued for their intelligence, and both anecdotal evidence and scientific research suggest that dogs have a reasonably high intelligence. This intelligence is expressed differently with different breeds and individuals, however. For example, Border Collies are noted for their ability to learn commands, while other breeds may not be so motivated towards obedience, but instead show their cleverness in devising ways to steal food or escape from a yard.

Being highly adaptable animals themselves, dogs have learned to do a great number of very eclectic jobs as humans have required over the generations. Dogs are employed in various roles across the globe, proving invaluable assets in areas such as search-and-rescue; law enforcement (including attack dogs, sniffer dogs and tracking dogs); guards for livestock, people or property; herding; Arctic exploration sled-pullers; guiding the blind and acting as a pair of ears for the deaf; assisting with hunting, and a great many other roles which they may be trained to assume.

Most dogs rarely have to deal with complex tasks and are unlikely to learn relatively complicated activities (such as opening doors) unaided. Some dogs (such as guide dogs for the visually impaired) are specially trained to recognize and avoid dangerous situations.

Evaluation of a dog's intelligence

The meaning of "intelligence" in general, not only in reference to dogs, is hard to define. Some tests measure problem-solving abilities and others test the ability to learn in comparison to others of the same age. Defining it for dogs is just as difficult. It is likely that dogs do not have the ability to premeditate an action to solve a problem. Some dogs may, however, have more drive to keep trying various things until they accidentally reach a solution and still others might have more ability to make the association between the "accident" and the result.

For example, the ability to learn quickly could be a sign of intelligence. Conversely it could be interpreted as a sign of blind subservience and a desire to please. In contrast, some dogs who do not learn very quickly may have other talents. An example is breeds that are not particularly interested in pleasing their owners, such as Siberian Huskies. Huskies are often fascinated with the myriad of possibilities for escaping from yards, catching small animals, and often figuring out on their own numerous inventive ways of doing both.

Assistance dogs are also required to be obedient at all times. This means they must learn a tremendous number of commands, understand how to act in a large variety of situations, and recognize threats to their human companion, some of which they might never before have encountered.

Many owners of livestock guardian breeds believe that breeds like the Great Pyrenees or the Kuvasz are not easily trained because their stubborn nature prevents them from seeing the point of such commands as “sit” or “down”. Hounds may also suffer from this type of ranking. In fact several rank in the bottom tier of "The Intelligence of Dogs" list (such as Beagles, Bloodhounds, and Basset Hounds).[citation needed] These dogs are bred to have more of a "pack" mentality with other dogs and less reliance on a master's direct commands. While they may not have the same kind of intelligence as a Border Collie, they were not bred to learn and obey commands quickly, but to think for themselves while trailing game.


Physical characteristics

Modern dog breeds show more variation in size, appearance, and behavior than any other domestic animal. Within the range of extremes, dogs generally share attributes with their wild ancestors, the wolves. Dogs are predators and scavengers, possessing sharp teeth and strong jaws for attacking, holding, and tearing their food. Although selective breeding has changed the appearance of many breeds, all dogs retain basic traits from their distant ancestors. Like many other predatory mammals, the dog has powerful muscles, fused wristbones, a cardiovascular system that supports both sprinting and endurance, and teeth for catching and tearing. Compared to the bone structure of the human foot, dogs technically walk on their toes.

Sight

Like most mammals, dogs are dichromats and have color vision equivalent to red-green color blindness in humans.[8][9]

Different breeds of dogs have different eye shapes and dimensions, and they also have different retina configurations.[10] Dogs with long noses have a "visual streak" which runs across the width of the retina and gives them a very wide field of excellent vision, while those with short noses have an "area centralis" — a central patch with up to three times the density of nerve endings as the visual streak — giving them detailed sight much more like a human's.

Some breeds, particularly the best sighthounds, have a field of vision up to 270° (compared to 180° for humans), although broad-headed breeds with short noses have a much narrower field of vision, as low as 180°.

Hearing

Dogs detect sounds as low as the 16 to 20 Hz frequency range (compared to 20 to 70 Hz for humans) and above 45 kHz[11] (compared to 13 to 20 kHz for humans),[9] and in addition have a degree of ear mobility that helps them to rapidly pinpoint the exact location of a sound. Eighteen or more muscles can tilt, rotate and raise or lower a dog's ear. Additionally, a dog can identify a sound's location much faster than a human can, as well as hear sounds up to four times the distance that humans are able to. Those with more natural ear shapes, like those of wild canids like the fox, generally hear better than those with the floppier ears of many domesticated species.

Smell

Dogs have nearly 220 million smell-sensitive cells over an area about the size of a pocket handkerchief (compared to 5 million over an area the size of a postage stamp for humans). Some breeds have been selectively bred for excellence in detecting scents, even compared to their canine brethren. What information a dog actually detects when he is scenting is not perfectly understood; although once a matter of debate, it now seems to be well established that dogs can distinguish two different types of scents when trailing, an air scent from some person or thing that has recently passed by, as well as a ground scent that remains detectable for a much longer period. The characteristics and behavior of these two types of scent trail would seem, after some thought, to be quite different, the air scent being intermittent but perhaps less obscured by competing scents, whereas the ground scent would be relatively permanent with respect to careful and repetitive search by the dog, but would seem to be much more contaminated with other scents. In any event, it is established by those who train tracking dogs that it is impossible to teach the dog how to track any better than it does naturally; the object instead is to motivate it properly, and teach it to maintain focus on a single track and ignore any others that might otherwise seem of greater interest to an untrained dog. An intensive search for a scent, for instance searching a ship for contraband, can actually be very fatiguing for a dog, and the dog must be motivated to continue this hard work for a long period of time.

Coat color

Domestic dogs often display the remnants of countershading, a common natural camouflage pattern. The general theory of countershading is that an animal that is lit from above will appear lighter on its upper half and darker on its lower half where it will usually be in its own shade. This is a pattern that predators can learn to watch for. A countershaded animal will have dark coloring on its upper surfaces and light coloring below. This reduces the general visibility of the animal. One reminder of this pattern is that many breeds will have the occasional "blaze", stripe, or "star" of white fur on their chest or undersides.

Sprint metabolism

Dogs can generate large amounts of energy for a short period of time. This setup is useful for hunting and combat. An example of this is that almost any dog, even one that is usually slow and lazy, can outsprint any human. However, almost any human can catch up with any dog in a marathon run, or other activity where endurance is needed.

A dog's heart and lungs are oversized relative to its body and its normal everyday needs. A dog also has relatively more red blood cells than a human. Most of the time the dog will keep the extra red blood cells stored in its spleen. When the animal enters into a situation where its full metabolism is required, such as play, catching game, or fighting other dogs, the extra cells are released into the bloodstream. The "oversized" heart and lungs will now be running at full capacity, and the animal will have an enhanced ability to engage in aerobic activity. This activity will produce internal heating. Dogs, being covered in fur, are limited in their ability to cool down. After a short time the animal must either cease its athletic activity or risk harming itself from overheating. One can easily observe this pattern of intense activity followed by rest periods in puppies. During the rest phase the spleen collects red blood cells and the animal may pant to cool down.