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Bookmarks 100 : Dog is a Man's Best Friend

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There can be few animals that engender in us such an active sense of love, trust and companionship as dogs. Known as man's best friend, they're always pleased to see us and happy just to be with us, whether it's in the car, by the fireside or simply having a stroll.

Amazingly then, to think that these lovely tame animals are, according to DNA research and fossil evidence, descended from wolves and domesticated as little as 15,000 years ago somewhere in East Asia before being taken with the first peoples into North America.

Dogs are social animals able to adapt and fit into almost any social situations we put them into, and this position makes them unique among pets. They are playful, sensitive to our moods and can be trained for a number of specialised roles, such as guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs, sniffer dogs at airports and hunting dogs.
Dogs are pack animals

One thing that hasn't been bred out of dogs is the pack mentality or pack instinct. This is often interpreted by us to reflect their qualities of devotion and friendship and loyalty, which is also why so many owners see their dogs as family members and why dogs see their owners as human companions and leaders of their pack.
Dogs are intelligent animals

Depending on the breed, dogs can be very intelligent, particularly breeds such as German shepherds, poodles, labradors and retrievers. This quality is often much valued by their owners. As mentioned earlier, their intelligence has led to some breeds being trained to assist society in specialised roles such as avoiding dangerous situations, search and rescue, as guards for sheep and other livestock and law enforcement.

This intelligence, though, isn't always shown in ways we might expect, such as obeying our orders and commands. In some breeds and some dogs, their intelligence is reflected rather mischievously — such as working out how to open doors to get out, how to steal food from the table or how to slip their collars or leads and escape from the back garden. No wonder these animals enjoy a special relationship with us and are loved the world over. 

The Breed Categories of Dogs

There are more than 8080 breeds of dogs recognized by kennel clubs around the world. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has assigned all breeds of dogs to one of several main categories:

Sporting Dogs
The sporting dogs include setters, pointers, spaniels, and retrievers, among others. Sporting dogs are those bred to hunt, particularly game birds.
Hounds come in 2 basic types: Scent hounds, who track prey by following scents, and sight hounds, such as the grehound, who chase prey visually.

Scent hounds include basset hounds, beagles, dachshunds, bloodhounds, foxhounds, elkhounds, black and tan coonhounds, and others. Scent hounds frequently have short legs (to keep their nose closer to the ground) and long droopy ears, which help focus the scent toward their noses.

Sight hounds include the greyhound, borzoi (or Russian wolfhound), whippet, afghan, and Irish wolfhound. Most sight hounds are tall and thin, with long legs, slender torsos, and long noses.
Working Breeds
Working dogs are bred for specific tasks, such as hauling sleds or pulling carts, driving cattle, and as guard dogs. The working breeds include the Newfoundland, bred as a rescue dog, rottweiler, doberman, Alaskan malamute, Great Dane, and schnauzer. Working dogs tend to be large and muscular, with thick undercoats and heavy topcoats that provide protection in all weather.
Herding Dogs
As might be expected, herding dogs were bred for herding. Herding dogs, which were originally included in the AKC's working dog group, include German shepherds, border collies, Shetland sheepdogs, and Australian shepherds.
Terriers were also originally hunting dogs, but they were used on farms to ferret out and exterminate pest animals, such as rats, mice, and weasels. Terriers come in a variety of sizes, but even the smallest terriers tend to be fierce warriers. Terriers include airedales, staffordshires, border terriers, irish terriers, Australian terriers, and fox terriers.
Toy breeds were bred to serve as companion dogs, particularly for those of the upper classes. They were bred to be small, so that they could sit in laps and be carried easily. Toys have no job except to be friendly and affectionate to their owners. Toys include many small versions of larger working or hunting dogs, such Italian greyhounds and miniature pinschers. Other toy breeds include the chihuahua, shih tzu, yorkshire terrier, pomeranian, toy poodle, and pekingese.
Non-Sporting Dogs
The non-sporting category of breeds can seem like a catch-all group. This group includes the English bulldog, dalmation, chow, lhasa apso, schipperke, and standard poodle.

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