Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) have developed a close relationship with humans through the process of domestication. In human-dog interactions, eye contact is a key element of relationship initiation and maintenance. Previous studies have suggested that canine ability to produce human-directed communicative signals is influenced by domestication history, from wolves to dogs, as well as by recent breed selection for particular working purposes. To test the genetic basis for such abilities in purebred dogs, we examined gazing behavior towards humans using two types of behavioral experiments: the ‘visual contact task’ and the ‘unsolvable task’. A total of 125 dogs participated in the study. Based on the genetic relatedness among breeds subjects were classified into five breed groups: Ancient, Herding, Hunting, Retriever-Mastiff and Working). We found that it took longer time for Ancient breeds to make an eye-contact with humans, and that they gazed at humans for shorter periods of time than any other breed group in the unsolvable situation. Our findings suggest that spontaneous gaze behavior towards humans is associated with genetic similarity to wolves rather than with recent selective pressure to create particular working breeds.
No one is suggesting that people should not get a dog from a shelter or rescue if that’s what they want to do. Many breed clubs were among the first dog rescue groups in the U.S. Breeders love dogs and believe in rescue. But people should also have the option to purchase a purebred dog from a dedicated breeder without harassment or guilt. And breeders should be able to breed their dogs without punitive laws.
Dogs have been selectively bred for thousands of years, sometimes by inbreeding dogs from the same ancestral lines, sometimes by mixing dogs from very different lines. The process continues today, resulting in a widening in appearance without speciation, "from the Chihuahua to the Great Dane."
In Great Britain the Kennel Club maintains a list of “vulnerable native breeds.” This refers to breeds that were developed in the UK which register fewer than 300 individual dogs per year. There are currently about 29 breeds on this list, with more breeds on the Watch list, meaning they are close to Vulnerable status. Although the Kennel Club in Britain registers fewer dogs than we do in the U.S., the situation with purebred dogs in the U.S. is similar. While the Labrador Retriever - the top dog registered by the AKC for over 20 years - has tens of thousands of individual registrations every year, other breeds have far fewer numbers. Beyond a few popular breeds, most breeds have relatively small numbers of dogs registered each year. We have many breeds in the United States which register only a few hundred individual dogs per year.