There’s no doubt that dogs have long held an important place in many cultures around the world. In fact, it’s estimated that there were probably between 80,000 and 100,000 different dog breeds alive today at the beginning of the 20th century. But how did all of those individual dog types come into existence? And why do so many people choose them as their pet especially considering that not even one percent of dogs is actually owned by any human being on Earth?
In this article, we’ll look at what makes dogs such popular pets, where the idea came from for most modern dog owners, and whether or not you can train your own dog to perform tricks like jumping through hoops. We’ll also find out if it’s possible to own tons of different dog breeds and which ones are best suited for particular environments.
How Long Have Dogs Been Domesticated?
The first thing you should know about dogs is that they’re closely related to wolves. Wolves themselves weren’t considered very friendly toward other animals, so it was pretty much impossible for humans to keep up with them when they needed hunting assistance. The early cavemen who lived during this time had to hunt and gather food on their own, without the help of their canine companions.
But things changed once man began settling down and forming villages. He could now protect his home and its inhabitants from wild predators. This was a huge advantage over the nomadic lifestyle he’d led before. Since dogs would always be welcome at a village’s castle, they became essential members of the community.
Wolves tend to live outside of towns and cities, preferring to hang out in large packs instead. Most domestic dogs, however, prefer living in homes and small groups. Because of this difference, researchers believe that dogs originally originated somewhere within Asia. Some experts think that ancient Mesopotamians brought dogs along with them when they traveled westward into Europe. Others say that the Indus Valley civilization of India also played an important role. Regardless of where the first domestication occurred, it seems clear that dog-owning practices spread throughout several regions around the globe.
By 3000 B.C., the Egyptians already knew how to train dogs to guard their palaces and dig wells. Over the millennia, the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Japanese and Mayans each developed their own methods for taming and training dogs. Today, millions of Americans still own purebreds descended from European stock, while the rest of the world has adopted dog ownership en masse.
Are All Dogs the Same?
Nowadays, we often talk about “breed” when referring to specific dog varieties, but technically speaking, every dog breed comes from a single species. For example, let’s compare Great Danes and Golden Retrievers. Both of these dogs descend from a common ancestor; therefore, they share the same genetic code, too. Although both dogs will act differently depending on their environment, their basic physical characteristics (such as size) remain similar despite the differences in appearance.
On the other hand, terriers aren’t bred specifically to fight off rats; rather, they’ve been selectively bred to chase after vermin. Even though they may appear identical, Chihuahuas and Saint Bernards carry distinctly different features. Breeders use artificial selection techniques to create specific physical traits in their pups. These breeding programs usually involve careful observation and tracking changes in certain characteristics over hundreds of generations.
When comparing two dogs, it’s important to realize that one animal isn’t necessarily better than another. The same goes for people, too. A group of athletes doesn’t automatically win because they belong to one team, nor does a person get good grades simply because she attends class.
People who want to buy a new puppy need to consider various factors. One of these is the owner’s personality. If someone is outgoing or shy, for instance, he might fare better with a high energy dog like a Labrador retriever. On the other hand, a patient person might do well owning a calmer pooch like a Pomeranian.
Why Are They So Popular as Pets?
Owning a dog is a lot cheaper than raising children. And unlike kids, dogs don’t require expensive clothes, toys, school supplies and extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, dogs are also less flexible in terms of work schedules. After all, your child can run errands whenever he wants, but taking Fido to the vet means getting up earlier than you normally would. Also, dogs can’t pick up garbage or move furniture.
Pet ownership costs money, too. Unless you plan to adopt a shelter dog from a local animal rescue organization, you’ll likely end up spending thousands of dollars per year on veterinary bills alone. Plus, you must also pay for boarding fees, kennel dues, flea treatments, heartworm prevention medicine, grooming services and emergency care.
Finally, the biggest reason people choose dogs as their pets is love. When asked why they chose a specific pet, most people mention something along the lines of “Because I love him.” Other reasons include loyalty, affection, protection, entertainment, companionship and socialization skills. Although there are definitely benefits to having pets, there are also risks involved.
Where Did the Idea for a Pet Dog Come From?
If you’ve ever seen a dog working alongside a farmer plowing fields, then you can appreciate just how vital they are to our way of life. Without dogs, agriculture wouldn’t exist. Throughout history, dogs helped hunters track prey and protect farmers from wild predators. Their value grew exponentially during the Middle Ages, when armies used them to scout enemy territory and fight against invading forces. During World War II, U.S. soldiers called them “man killers,” due to their ability to sniff out explosives hidden in crates and buried under the ground.
Today, dogs continue to play an important role in our society. Police officers use trained K-9 units to detect drugs, search for missing persons and apprehend criminals. Firefighters rely on specially trained rescue dogs to locate victims trapped behind burning walls or collapsed ceilings.
Airline pilots employ service dogs to assist passengers who suffer from allergies or disabilities. Search and rescue teams also employ dogs as guides and scouts. So far, we’ve looked mostly at dogs’ positive contributions to our lives. However, sometimes bad things happen to beloved pets. Next, we’ll discuss some unfortunate events.
Do People Own Thousands of Different Types of Dog?
The answer is yes. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), there are currently 2,700 recognized breeds of dogs in North America alone. Another 4,500 or so additional dog types fall under nonrecognized categories. Each of these breeds possesses unique physical attributes and personalities. As a result, you won’t see two dogs with the exact same tail shape or coat coloration.
It’s true that the AKC recognizes a few hundred breeds that most people refer to as “purebreds.” To qualify as a purebred, a dog must exhibit clearly defined physical characteristics. These characteristics typically involve variations in ear carriage, eye color, body type and head structure. Purebreds usually have limited gene pools, meaning that their ancestors were carefully selected to ensure desirable traits.
Some purebreds show signs of inbreeding, which leads to health problems like hip dysplasia. But breeders try to avoid this problem by mixing different bloodlines together. By doing so, they produce healthier puppies.
Other dogs are known as mixed-breeds. Like purebreds, mixed-breed dogs possess distinctive characteristics. But since breeders didn’t select them to meet specific needs, mixed-breed dogs feature a wider range of physical appearances.
While it’s nice to know that there are so many different kinds of dogs around the world, it’s easy to lose sight of how similar dogs really are. Next, we’ll examine how this similarity affects their behavior.
Can You Train Your Dog to Do Things That It Would Normally Do?
Of course, not everyone owns a purebred or a mixed-breed dog. Many people opt for low-cost, generic household mutts whose parents were chosen for looks rather than specific temperaments.
These dogs don’t tend to follow strict guidelines regarding breed standards. Instead, they have inherited behavioral defects that stem from their ancestry. For example, it’s common for pit bull terriers to bite anything that moves.