The dog (Canis lupus familiaris,pronounced /ˈkeɪnɨs ˈluːpəs fəˈmɪli.ɛərɨs/) is a domesticated form of the wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The domestic dog has been one of the most widely kept working and companion animals in human history. The word "dog" may also mean the male of a canine species, as opposed to the word "bitch" for the female of the species.
The dog quickly became ubiquitous across culture across the world, and was extremely valuable to early human settlements. For instance, it is believed that the successful emigration across the Bering Strait might not have been possible without sled dogs. Dogs perform many roles for people, such as hunting, herding, protection, assisting police and military, companionship, and, more recently, aiding handicapped individuals. This versatility, more than almost any other known animal, has given them the nickname "Man's best friend" in the western world. Currently, there are estimated to be 400 million dogs in the world.
Over the 15,000 year span that the dog had been domesticated, it diverged into only a handful of landraces, groups of similar animals whose morphology and behavior have been shaped by environmental factors and functional roles. As the modern understanding of genetics developed, humans began to intentionally breed dogs for a wide range of specific traits. Through this process, the dog has developed into hundreds of varied breeds, and shows more behavioral and morphological variation than any other land mammal. For example, height measured to the withers ranges from a few inches in the Chihuahua to a few feet in the Irish Wolfhound; color varies from white through grays (usually called "blue'") to black, and browns from light (tan) to dark ("red" or "chocolate") in a wide variation of patterns; coats can be short or long, coarse-haired to wool-like, straight, curly, or smooth. It is common for most breeds to shed this coat.
Dog is the common use term that refers to members of the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris. The term is sometimes used to refer to a wider range of species: it can be used to refer to some belonging to the family Canidae, which includes foxes, jackals, Bush Dog, the cape dog Lycaon and coyotes and many others; or it can be used to refer to the subfamily of Caninae, or the genus Canis, also often called the "true dogs," which genus includes only the wolf, jackal, coyote, and dog. Some members of the family have "dog" in their common names, such as the Raccoon Dog and the African Wild Dog. A few animals have "dog" in their common names but are not canids, such as the prairie dog and the dog fish.
The English word dog comes from Middle English dogge, from Old English docga, a "powerful dog breed". The term may derive from Proto-Germanic *dukkōn, represented in Old English finger-docce ("finger-muscle"). The word also shows the familiar petname diminutive -ga also seen in frogga "frog", picga "pig", stagga "stag", wicga "beetle, worm", among others. Due to the archaic structure of the word, the term dog may ultimately derive from the earliest layer of Proto-Indo-European vocabulary, reflecting the role of the dog as the earliest domesticated animal.
In 14th century england, hound (from German: 'hund') was the general word for all domestic canines, and dog referred to a subtype of hound. By the 16th century, dog had become the general word, and hound had begun to refer only to types used for hunting. Hound, cognate to German Hund, Dutch hond, common Scandinavian hund, and Icelandic hundur, is ultimately derived from the Proto-Indo-European *kwon- "dog", found in Welsh ci (plural cwn), Latin canis, Greek kýōn, Lithuanian šuõ.
In breeding circles, a male canine is referred to as a dog, while a female is called a bitch (Middle English bicche, from Old English bicce, ultimately from Old Norse bikkja). A group of offspring is a litter. The father of a litter is called the sire, and the mother is called the dam. Offspring are generally called pups or puppies, from French poupée, until they are about a year old. The process of birth is whelping, from the Old English word hwelp, (cf. German Welpe, Dutch welp, Swedish valp, Icelandic hvelpur) .
The domestic dog was originally classified as Canis familiaris and Canis familiarus domesticus by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758, and was reclassified in 1993 as Canis lupus familiaris, a subspecies of the gray wolf Canis lupus, by the Smithsonian Institution and the American Society of Mammalogists. Overwhelming evidence from behavior, vocalizations, morphology, and molecular biology led to the contemporary scientific understanding that a single species, the gray wolf, is the common ancestor for all breeds of domestic dogs; however, the timeframe and mechanisms by which dogs diverged are controversial.
History and evolution
Domestic dogs inherited a complex social hierarchy and behaviors from their wolf ancestors. Dogs are pack animals with a complex set of behaviors related to determining each dog's position in the social hierarchy, and they exhibit various postures and other means of nonverbal communication that reveal their states of mind. These sophisticated forms of social cognition and communication may account for their trainability, playfulness, and ability to fit into human households and social situations, and these attributes have earned dogs a unique relationship with humans despite being potentially dangerous apex predators.
Although experts largely disagree over the details of dog domestication, it is agreed that human interaction played a significant role in shaping the subspecies. Shortly after domestication, dogs became ubiquitous in human populations, and spread throughout the world. Emigrants from Siberia likely crossed the Bering Strait with dogs in their company, and some experts suggest that use of sled dogs may have been critical to the success of the waves that entered North America roughly 12,000 years ago. Dogs were an important part of life for the Athabascan population in North America, and were their only domesticated animal. Dogs also carried much of the load in the migration of the Apache and Navajo tribes 1,400 years ago. Use of dogs as pack animals in these cultures often persisted after the introduction of the horse to North America.
The current consensus among biologists and archaeologists is that the dating of first domestication is indeterminate. There is conclusive evidence that dogs genetically diverged from their wolf ancestors at least 15,000 years ago, but some believe domestication to have occurred earlier. It is not known whether humans domesticated the wolf as such to initiate dog's divergence from its ancestors, or whether dog's evolutionary path had already taken a different course prior to domestication. The latter view has gained proponents, such as biologists Raymond and Lorna Coppinger; they theorize that some wolves gathered around the campsites of the paleolithical man to scavenge refuse, and that associated evolutionary pressure developed that favored those who were less frightened by, and keener in approaching, humans.
The bulk of the scientific evidence for the evolution of the domestic dog stems from archaeological findings and mitochondrial DNA studies. The divergence date of roughly 15000 years ago is based in part on archaeological evidence that demonstrates that the domestication of dogs occurred more than 15,000 years ago, and some genetic evidence indicates that the domestication of dogs from their wolf ancestors began in the late Upper Paleolithic close to the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary, between 17,000 and 14,000 years ago. But there is a wide range of other, contradictory findings that make this issue controversial.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the latest dogs could have diverged from wolves was roughly 15000 years ago, although it is possible that they diverged much earlier. In 2008, a team of international scientists released findings from an excavation at Goyet Cave in Belgium declaring that a large, toothy canine existed 31,700 years ago and ate a diet of horse, musk ox and reindeer. Prior to this Belgium discovery, the earliest dog fossils were two large skulls from Russia and a mandible from Germany, that dated from roughly 14,000 years ago. Remains of smaller dogs from Natufian cave deposits in the Middle East, including the earliest burial of a human being with a domestic dog, have been dated to around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. There is a great deal of archaeological evidence for dogs throughout Europe and Asia around this period and through the next two thousand years (roughly 8,000 to 10,000 years ago), with fossils uncovered in Germany, the French Alps, and Iraq, and cave paintings in Turkey.
DNA studies have provided a wider range of possible divergence dates, from 15,000 to 40,000 years ago, to as much as 100,000 to 140,000 years ago. This evidence depends on a number of assumptions that may be violated. Genetic studies are based on comparisons of genetic diversity between species, and depend on a calibration date. Many estimates of divergence dates from DNA evidence use an estimated wolf-coyote divergence date (roughly 1 million years ago) as a calibration. If this estimate is incorrect, and the actual wolf-coyote divergence is closer to 750,000 or 2 million years ago, then the DNA evidence that supports specific dog-wolf divergence dates would be interpreted very differently. Furthermore, it is believed that the genetic diversity of wolves has been in decline for the last 200 years, and that the genetic diversity of dogs has been reduced by selective breeding. This could significantly bias DNA analyses to support an earlier divergence date. The genetic evidence for the domestication event occurring in East Asia is also subject to violations of assumptions. These conclusions are based on the location of maximal genetic divergence, and assume that hybridization does not occur, and that breeds remain geographically localized. Although these assumptions hold for many species, there is good reason to believe that they do not hold for canines.
Genetic analyses indicate all dogs are likely descended from a handful of domestication events with a small number of founding females, although there is evidence that domesticated dogs interbred with local populations of wild wolves on several occasions. Data suggests that dogs first diverged from wolves in East Asia, and that these domesticated dogs then quickly migrated throughout the world, reaching the North American continent around 8000 B.C. The oldest groups of dogs, which show the greatest genetic variability and are the most similar to their wolf ancestors, are primarily Asian and African breeds, including the Basenji, Lhasa Apso, and Siberian Husky. Some breeds that were thought to be very old, such as the Pharaoh Hound, Ibizan Hound, and Norwegian Elkhound, are now known to have been created more recently.
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the evolutionary framework for the domestication of dogs. Although it is widely claimed that "man domesticated the wolf," man may not have taken such a proactive role in the process. The nature of the interaction between man and wolf that led to domestication is unknown and controversial. At least three early species of the Homo genus began spreading out of Africa roughly 400,000 years ago, and thus lived for a considerable period in contact with canine species. Despite this, there is no evidence of any adaptation of canine species to the presence of the close relatives of modern man. If dogs were domesticated, as believed, roughly 15,000 years ago, the event (or events) would have coincided with a large expansion in human territory and the development of agriculture. This has led some biologists to suggest that one of the forces that led to the domestication of dogs was a shift in human lifestyle in the form of established human settlements. Permanent settlements would have coincided with a greater amount of disposable food and would have created a barrier between wild and anthropogenic canine populations.
Roles with humans
Wolves, and their dog descendants, would have derived significant benefits from living in human camps—more safety, more reliable food, lesser caloric needs, and more chance to breed. They would have benefited from humans’ upright gait that gives them larger range over which to see potential predators and prey, as well as color vision that, at least by day, gives humans better visual discrimination. Camp dogs would also have benefitted from human tool use, as in bringing down larger prey and controlling fire for a range of purposes.
Humans would also have derived enormous benefit from the dogs associated with their camps. For instance, dogs would have improved sanitation by cleaning up human waste and food scraps. Dogs may have provided warmth, as referred to in the Australian Aboriginal expression “three dog night” and they would have alerted the camp to the presence of predators or strangers, using their acute hearing to provide an early warning. Anthropologists believe the most significant benefit would have been the use of dogs' sensitive sense of smell to assist with the hunt. The relationship between the presence of a dog and success in the hunt is often mentioned as a primary reason for the domestication of the wolf, and a 2004 study of hunter groups with and without a dog gives quantitative support to the hypothesis that the benefits of cooperative hunting was an important factor in wolf domestication.
The cohabitation of dogs and humans would have greatly improved the chances of survival for early human groups, and the domestication of dogs may have been one of the key forces that led to modern humans. Anthropologists Tacon and Pardoe argue that the effects of human-canine cohabitation on humans would have been profound, and hypothesize that some of the effects could have been moving from scavenging to large game hunting, the establishment and marking of territories, living in optimally sized social groups, hunting/working in synchronised teams, and negotiating partnership bonds. The human-dog partnership set both species on a new evolutionary course.
“The most widespread form of interspecies bonding occurs between humans and dogs”  and the keeping of dogs as companions, particularly by elites, has a long history. However pet dog populations grew significantly after WWII as suburbanization increased. In the 1950s and 1960s dogs were kept outside, (using the expression “in the doghouse” to describe exclusion from the group signifies the distance between the doghouse and the home) and were still primarily functional, acting as a guard, children’s playmate, or walking companion. From the 1980s we have seen significant changes in the role of the pet dog, and writer John Katz describes the new work of dogs as the emotional support of their owner. People and dogs have become increasingly integrated and implicated in each other’s lives, to the point where pet dogs actively shape the way that family and home are experienced.
There have been two major trends in the changing status of pet dogs. The first has been the ‘commodification’ of the dog, shaping it to conform to human expectations of personality and behaviour. The second has been the broadening of the concept of the family and the home to include dogs-as-dogs within everyday routines and practices.
Social geographer Heidi Nast points out the vast range of commodity forms available to transform a pet dog into an ideal companion. The list of goods, services and places available is enormous: from dog perfumes, couture, furniture and housing, to dog groomers, therapists, trainers and care-takers, dog cafes, spas, parks and beaches, and dog hotels, airlines and cemeteries. While dog training as an organized activity can be traced back to the 1700s, in the last decades of the 20th Century it became a high profile issue as many normal dog behaviors such as barking, jumping up, digging, rolling in dung, fighting, and urine marking became increasingly incompatible with the new role of a pet dog. Dog training books, classes and television programs proliferated as the process of commodifying the pet dog continued.
The majority of contemporary dog owners describe their dog as part of the family, although some ambivalence about the relationship is evident in the popular reconceptualisation of the dog-human family as a pack. This concept of the family pack has been promoted by some dog trainers such as on the television program Dog Whisperer, despite evidence that a dog does not live in a pack relationship with humans, and does not compete with them for leadership. Pet dogs play an active role in family life, for example, a study of conversations in dog-human families showed how family members use the dog as a resource, talking to the dog, or talking through the dog, to mediate their interactions with each other. Another study of dogs’ roles in families showed that many dogs have set tasks or routines undertaken as family members, the most common of which was helping with the washing-up by licking the plates in the dishwasher, and bringing in the newspaper from the lawn. Increasingly, human family members are engaging in activities that are centred on the perceived needs and interests of the dog, or in which the dog is an integral partner such as Dog Dancing and Doga.
Dogs have lived and worked with humans in so many roles that they have earned the unique nickname, "man's best friend", a phrase which is used in other languages as well. They have been bred for herding livestock, hunting (e.g. pointers and hounds), rodent control, guarding, helping fishermen with nets, and pulling loads, in addition to their roles as companions.
Service dogs such as guide dogs, utility dogs, assistance dogs, hearing dogs, and psychological therapy dogs provide assistance to individuals with physical or mental disabilities. Some dogs owned by epileptics have been shown to alert their handler when the handler shows signs of an impending seizure, sometimes well in advance of onset, allowing the owner to seek safety, medication, or medical care.
Sports and shows
In conformation shows, also referred to as breed shows, a judge familiar with the specific dog breed evaluates individual purebred dogs for conformity with their established breed type as described in the breed standard. As the breed standard only deals with the externally observable qualities of the dog (such as appearance, movement, and temperament), separately tested qualities (such as ability or health) are not part of the judging in conformation shows.
As a food source
Dog meat is consumed in some East Asian countries, including Korea, China, and Vietnam, a practice that dates back to antiquity. It is estimated that 13–16 million dogs are killed and consumed in Asia every year. The BBC claims that, in 1999, more than 6,000 restaurants served soups made from dog meat in South Korea. In Korea, the primary dog breed raised for meat, the nureongi (누렁이), differs from those breeds raised for pets which Koreans may keep in their homes. The most popular Korean dog dish is gaejang-guk (also called bosintang), a spicy stew meant to balance the body's heat during the summer months; followers of the custom claim this is done to ensure good health by balancing one's gi, or vital energy of the body. A 19th century version of gaejang-guk explains that the dish is prepared by boiling dog meat with scallions and chili powder. Variations of the dish contain chicken and bamboo shoots. While the dishes are still popular in Korea with a segment of the population, dog is not as widely consumed as beef, chicken, and pork.
Other cultures, such as Polynesia and Pre-Columbian Mexico, also consumed dog meat in their history. However, Western, South Asian, African, and Middle Eastern cultures generally regard consumption of dog meat as taboo. In some places, however, such as in rural areas of Poland, dog fat is believed to have medicinal properties—being good for the lungs for instance.
Health risks to humans
In the USA, cats and dogs are a factor in more than 86,000 falls each year. It has been estimated that around 2% of dog related injuries treated in UK hospitals are domestic accidents. The same study found that while dog involvement in road traffic accidents were difficult to quantify, dog associated road accidents involving injury more commonly involved two-wheeled vehicles.
Toxocara canis eggs in dog feces can cause toxocariasis. In the United States, about 10,000 cases of Toxocara infection are reported in humans each year and almost 14% of the US population is infected. In Great Britain, 24% of soil samples taken from public parks contained Toxocara canis eggs. Untreated toxocariasis can cause retinal damage and decreased vision. Dog feces can also contain hookworms that cause cutaneous larva migrans in humans.
The incidence of dog bites, and especially fatal dog bites, is extremely rare in America considering the number of pet dogs in the country. Fatalities from dog bites occur in America at the rate of one per four million dogs. A Colorado study found that bites in children were less severe than bites in adults. The incidence of dog bites in the US is 12.9 per 10,000 inhabitants, but for boys aged 5 to 9 the incidence rate is 60.7 per 10,000. Moreover, children have a much higher chance to be bitten in the face or neck. Sharp claws with powerful muscles behind them can lacerate flesh in a scratch that can lead to serious infections.
Health benefits for humans
A growing body of research indicates that the companionship of a dog can enhance human physical health and psychological wellbeing. Dog and cat owners have been shown to have better mental and physical health than non-owners, making fewer visits to the doctor and being less likely to be on medication than non-owners. In one study new pet owners reported a highly significant reduction in minor health problems during the first month following pet acquisition, and this effect was sustained in dog owners through to the end of the study. In addition, dog owners took considerably more physical exercise than cat owners and non-pet owners. The group without pets exhibited no statistically significant changes in health or behaviour. The results provide evidence that pet acquisition may have positive effects on human health and behaviour, and that for dog owners these effects are relatively long term. Pet ownership has also been associated with increased coronary artery disease survival, with dog owners being significantly less likely to die within one year of an acute myocardial infarction than those who did not own dogs.
The health benefits of dogs can result from contact with dogs, not just from dog ownership. For example, when in the presence of a pet dog, people show reductions in cardiovascular, behavioral, and psychological indicators of anxiety. The benefits of contact with a dog also include social support, as dogs are able to not only provide companionship and social support themselves, but also to act as facilitators of social interactions between humans. One study indicated that wheelchair users experience more positive social interactions with strangers when they are accompanied by a dog than when they are not.
The practice of using dogs and other animals as a part of therapy dates back to the late 18th century, when animals were introduced into mental institutions to help socialize patients with mental disorders. Animal-assisted intervention research has shown that animal-assisted therapy with a dog can increase a person with Alzheimer’s disease’s social behaviours, such as smiling and laughing. One study demonstrated that children with ADHD and conduct disorders who participated in an education program with dogs and other animals showed increased attendance, increased knowledge and skill objectives, and decreased antisocial and violent behavior compared to those who were not in an animal-assisted program.
Every year, between 6 and 8 million dogs and cats enter US animal shelters. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that approximately 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized yearly in shelters across the United States. However, the percentage of dogs in US animal shelters that are eventually adopted and removed from the shelters by their new owners has increased since the mid 1990s from around 25 percent up to around 60 to 75 percent in the mid 2000s.
Domestic dogs have been selectively bred for millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes. Modern dog breeds show more variation in size, appearance, and behavior than any other domestic animal. Nevertheless, their morphology is based on that of their wild ancestors, gray wolves. Dogs are predators and scavengers, and like many other predatory mammals, the dog has powerful muscles, fused wrist bones, a cardiovascular system that supports both sprinting and endurance, and teeth for catching and tearing. Dogs are highly variable in height and weight. The smallest known adult dog was a Yorkshire Terrier, that stood only 6.3 centimetres (2.5 in) at the shoulder, 9.5 cm (3.7 in) in length along the head-and-body, and weighed only 113 grams (4.0 oz). The largest known dog was an English Mastiff which weighed 155.6 kilograms (343 lb) and was 250 cm (98 in) from the snout to the tail. The tallest dog is a Great Dane that stands 106.7 cm (42.0 in) at the shoulder.