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Dog Made Simple: A Step-By-Step Guide

There are over 700 million dogs in the world.
Many of them are companions and guards in homes, helpers for humans in various roles and more than 100,000 of them are used for research globally every year.

But even with their usefulness to humans, data from dog population studies estimated that about 83% of the total dog population are unrestrained.

The unrestrained dogs typically roam the streets, villages, and live as scavengers. This makes them vulnerable to diseases that can be passed on to humans.

If you have a dog or your business generates money from caring, boarding or selling dog related supplies, knowing more about dogs is important. This is because recent statistics has shown that dog owners are increasingly spending more money on their dogs.

According to the American Pet Products Association, a staggering $99.0 billion was estimated to be spent on pets in the United States in 2020.

For your business to benefit more from this huge spending, adequate knowledge of dog is needed. Even if you want to reduce spending on dog care, training and maintenance,  this guide will help you along the way.

Since almost everyone has seen a dog in their lives, I'm sure you know how they look like. But physical appearances can sometimes be confusing, so let's look at the scientific aspects of our four-legged friend in order to avoid any confusion that may arise.

But before you continue, what exactly is a dog? And what exactly will a dog do for you? Let's explain more.

What is a dog?

Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a domestic animal with four legs belonging to the order Carnivora (placental mammals that are capable of eating flesh) and family Canidae.

The dog's family (Canidae ) consists of 35 related species that diverged within the last ten million years. When this family is divided further, the domestic dog shares the same subfamily with wolf, fox, and some other flesh-eating animals that are no longer in existence.

In fact, genetic evidences suggest that the domestic dogs descended from grey wolves.

But why does the mating of dogs with coyotes, jackals, and wolves give rise to fertile offsprings even though we learnt in childhood that hybrids of different species can't reproduce?

Here lies the beauty of science. There's no be-all-and-end-all, but ongoing findings to unravel the truth.

The fact that dogs have close relatives within its genus that share similar phylogenetic history is responsible for its ability to produce fertile hybrids. If you look at the number of chromosomes in dogs, wolves, coyotes, and jackals, you'll notice that there are 78 in number. These chromosomes are arranged in 39 pairs and during reproduction hybridize freely to give rise to young ones that are fertile. 

So, next time you hear about wolfdog, coydog, and other dog hybrids, know that they can reproduce fertile offsprings because of this evolutionary closeness.

Let's take a look at the scientific classification of dog according to science.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Genus: Canis

Species: Canis lupus

Subspecies: Canis lupus familiaris

History

You must have been wondering why dogs find themselves in homes with humans while their close relatives roam freely in the wild.

A brief history of dogs will answer some of these questions since DNA sequencing has enabled scientists to trace the family history of dogs with some degree of accuracy.

Recent studies brought together the Canidae (dog's family) into three main groups, namely:

  • Wolf-like canids
  • The red fox-like canids, and
  • South American canids.
The three classes listed above make up to 93% of all canids that are still in existence today.

The grey wolves belong to the wolf-like canid group which many scientists believe is the closest living relative of domestic dogs, seconded by coyotes, golden jackals, and Ethiopian wolves.

Data from morphological, genetic, and behavioural studies have made it clear that the grey wolf (Canis lupus), is the closest living relative of domestic dogs.

Canids and humans bones which dated back to over 100,000 BP were found close together by researchers. Even though the canids bones resembled that of wolves, there were no signs that these wolves were domesticated.

But many scientists still believe that these wolves and humans remains, are indicators that humans and wolves met during the Pleistocene era and shared habitat.

This belief was further reinforced by clear evidence of wolve's domestication in late Pleistocene approximately 12,000 BP.

Humans in the Pleistocene era were mostly hunter-gatherers. This occupation made wolves to sometimes follow humans when they search and hunt for games.

Because of this, wolves were able to trail the leftovers and scavenged on them. Since wolves could move for long distances due to their naturally well-equipped mobile bodies, they were able to follow these hunters for many years until the beginning of the Holocene era.

During the Holocene (around 10,000 BP), humans began to settle gradually for agriculture.

Wolves are speculated by scientists to have either visited these human settlements while searching for leftovers and waste or live around them.

According to this hypothesis, this gradual interactions either gave humans the chance to actively select wolves pups that were friendly and nice to be their pets or made friendly wolves live with humans without any intentional selection (self-domestication).

This relationship led to many fundamental changes in wolves including adaptation to life with humans. Through selective breeding over many generations, wolves evolved into man's best friends.

Even though the skull, teeth and brain of modern dogs are smaller than that of wolves, puppies of some dog breeds do have rounded profiles and floppy ears common to wolves. These make people to believe that dogs are neotenic (forever immature). 

These domestication hypotheses have been challenged by archaeological and genetic evidences in recent years owing to the discovery of skulls in Goyet cave, Belgium and Altai mountain, Russia.

When the DNA collected from these skull specimens were compared to that of modern wolves, dogs, and prehistoric wolf specimens, it was discovered that the 30,000 years old skulls were actually that of dogs but not wolves.

Again, the results suggested that modern dogs originated from Europe and not in the Middle East or East Asia, as propounded by the domestication hypotheses.

From the study, it was concluded that the species of wolves who are more likely the ancestors of modern dogs are no longer in existence.

Although researchers have disagreed on dog's origin, and time of domestication, they seem to agree on one thing -  wolves (proto-dogs) were around humans when they were hunting larger animals.

Why Do You Want To Own A Dog?

Dog is one of the most successful species on earth. This is because they've been able to survive wherever there are humans for thousands of years. This makes dogs the oldest domestic animals.

Before relationships of this nature can be sustained for such a long number of years, there are some benefits to both parties.

In this section, we'll answer the question: what are the benefits of having a dog?

Benefits Of Having A Dog

1. Companionship

Picture- companion dogs.jpg
Mai/Pixabay
Your dog may not work but can be a faithful friend and partner, giving unconditional love and non-judgemental intimate companionship. 

The benefits you can derive from this companionship are backed by research and include the following:
  • Dogs can give emotional support in times of crisis since they have the ability to respond to their owners intuitively.
  • Dogs can give unconditional love and affection which promotes self-acceptance
  • Dogs encourage emotional stability by helping people to cope with difficult events in life
  • Dog owners who live alone feel connected to their dogs, and as such appear reassured and normal
  • Dogs can help the owner to stay in the present without any worry for the past or about the future
  • Dog gives protection to their owners
  • Dogs can help you increase the level of exercise during training, dog walking or game
  • While walking your dog, you may have close contact with nature and this can have a positive impact on your mental health
  • Your dog can also help you in increasing social interaction with others especially during dog walking.
The dog breeds that were bred for companionship include:
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Coton de Tulear
  • L√∂wchen
  • Maltese
  • Pekingese
But if you are looking for the best small companion dogs, you can choose from the following breeds:
  • Affenpinscher
  • Bichon Frise
  • Bolognese
  • Boston Terrier
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Chihuahua
  • Chinese Crested
  • Dachshund
  • Havanese
  • Japanese Chin
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Maltese Shih Tzu
  • Maltipoo
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Papillon
  • Peekapoo
  • Pomeranian
  • Poodle
  • Pug
  • Rat Terrier
  • Shiba Inu
  • Silky Terrier
  • Toy Fox Terrier
  • Yorkipoo
  • Yorkshire Terrier

2. Assistance

Picture- assistance dog.jpg
Some dogs are bred to help humans in working, while others are trained for some roles and employed in carrying out most of these meaningful tasks.

Based on their roles, working dogs have been grouped into the following.

Types Of Working Dogs

Service Dogs

This group of working dogs are bred or trained to help humans with disabilities. Because they carry out tasks such as guiding the blind, helping the lame, deaf and people with special medical needs, service dogs are specially trained to behave well at all times.

The best service dog breed includes:
  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Golden Retriever
  • Standard Poodle
  • Border Collie
  • Pomeranian
  • Bernese Mountain Dog

Therapy Dogs

Dogs in this group are trained and certified to give support to injured or sick persons by visiting their homes, hospitals, schools, etc.

Before you choose a therapy dog, consider the temperament and size of the breed and always go for any breed that is easy to train and less prone to behavioural problems.

The best therapy dog breeds include:
  • Greyhound
  • Beagle
  • Golden Retriever
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Border Collie
  • Chihuahua
  • Labrador Retriever
  • French Bulldog
  • Corgi
  • Dachshund
  • German Shepherd
  • Pomeranian, and
  • Any dog breed that is trained as therapy dogs

Police Dogs

Dogs in this group are trained to help law enforcement officers in carrying out specialised tasks ranging from finding criminals, drugs, explosives, crime scene to chasing and attacking suspected criminals.

Police dogs are sometimes called K9 because law enforcement officers most times prefer shorthand ways of explaining important information, roles, incidents and titles. In this case, K9 is chosen as a codeword for police dog because it sounds like a canine (Latin word for dogs).

The best police dog breeds include:
  • German Shepherd
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Bloodhound
  • Dutch Shepherd, and
  • Retriever breeds

Herding Dogs

Dogs in the herding group are bred and trained to help humans in taking care of their livestock.

Best herding dog breeds include:
  • Icelandic Sheepdog
  • King Shepherd
  • Black Mouth Cur
  • Collies
  • Malinois
  • The Great Pyrenees
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • St. Bernard
  • Australian Shepherd

Military Working Dogs

These dogs are trained and employed by the military to help their personnel in searching, tracking and detecting dangerous weapons, attacking enemies and terrorists, and rescuing wounded individuals.

The best military working dog breeds include:
  • German Shepherd
  • Dutch Shepherd
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies
  • Boxer
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Rottweiler
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Giant Schnauzer

Search and Rescue Dogs

The dogs in this group help in tracking, trailing, searching and rescuing humans in dangerous situations.
Dogs that carry out search and rescue are trained to use their senses of smell and hearing in carrying out these tasks.

Best search and rescue dog breeds include:
  • Leonberger
  • German Shepherd
  • Border Collie
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • St. Bernard
  • Bloodhound
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Poodle
  • Springer Spaniel

Detection Dogs

Dogs in this group are trained to help humans in sniffing out specific odour or group of smells such as illegal drugs, blood, human remains, cancer, virus, invasive species, etc.
They're mostly employed by those in law enforcement, health and wildlife conservation.

The best detection of dog breeds include:
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Beagle

How To Choose The Best Dog

Selecting the best dog breed that will be suitable for your needs can be challenging. But you can enjoy all the benefits that dogs have to offer by considering the following criteria while choosing the best dog.

1. Size Of Dog

Before choosing a dog for companionship or assistance, consider the size of the breed. This is because the size of a dog breed can have an influence on its performance.

While some medium to large dogs have the ability and energy to work for longer hours in challenging environments, some smaller and larger breeds can find it difficult to cope in extreme weather conditions.

Medium size dogs also have the ability to maneuver difficult terrains for longer hours during detection, search and rescue.

Small Dog Vs. Big Dog

Small dogs can live comfortably in apartment with their owners whereas big dogs require fenced yard.

Some small dogs find it difficult to maintain body heat during extreme cold whereas some big dogs struggle to cool down body temperature while working in harsh hot weather condition.

Small dogs with short, flat snouts have limited olfactory capabilities while big dogs with long snouts are good at detecting smells.

You can handle and manage small dogs easily but big dogs can be difficult to manage and handle

Pet products such as clothing, food, and medication for small dogs are cheaper than those for big dogs.

Big dogs are smarter than small dogs because they have bigger brains with better short term memory than small dogs. This is why big dogs have self-control and complete certain intelligent tasks that small dogs can find difficult to accomplish.

Small dogs are less prone to hip dysplasia while big dogs suffer mostly from the disease.

2. Breed of Dog

When you want to choose a dog breed for your needs, consider the tasks the breed was originally bred to accomplish.

The dogs that were bred to assist humans in working have shapes and abilities to withstand challenges associated with such jobs. 

For instance, some herding breeds have a strong muscular body which they use in keeping unruly livestock in order, while detection dogs have exceptional olfactory abilities such as large noses and ears that enable them to sniff, trail and detect scents.

3. Temperament, Personality and Behaviour

When choosing a dog, pay close attention to the general behavioural styles from birth (temperament), the dog's genetics and experiences over time (personality), and how the dog responds to situations at any given time (behaviour).

This will enable you to know whether such psychological traits align with your personality.

If you're interested in companion dogs, choose a friendly, playful and intelligent dog breed. But if you want a working dog, breeds that are bold, fearless and have an interest in exploring your environment will be suitable for some roles.

4. Trainability

The dogs you choose for companionship or tasks should have a strong drive for food and object obsession for toys to enable them to learn easily through associative learning. 

Dogs with strong motivational drives are easy to train using operant conditioning.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Having A Dog?

You may feel frustrated when your dog develops destructive behaviours that are difficult to modify.

The loss of your beloved dog can bring distress that can take time to go away.

Your dog can take away valuable time that would have been devoted to other areas of your life.

The cost of maintaining, grooming and training a dog can have a negative impact on your finances.

The shedding of hairs on furniture can make you spend more time on home cleaning

Your dog can urinate, poo, and dig your lawn thus destroying the plants.

Your dog can bite and inflict injuries on strangers leading to lawsuits.

Your dog can act as carriers of zoonotic diseases that can be spread to humans such as rabies.

Conclusion

Dogs are indeed our best friends. 
They guide the blind, help people with hearing and movement difficulties, and serve in the military, police, and hospitals.
In our homes they provide security, comfort and companionship.

But we can't fully understand the benefits of our furry friends until we delve more into the meaning, classification, history, benefits, types and how to choose the best dog based on our needs.

Even if you choose a small or big dog, be reminded that the breed, temperament, personality and trainability will directly or indirectly influence the behaviour of your dog.

So pay attention to the details in this guide and raise the type of dog whose benefits outweigh the disadvantages.



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