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By Kristi B. Hill on April 16 2018 01:35:03

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.

Today some of these jobs are performed in other ways and dogs don’t do the work they used to do. Hunting is a sport today and most of us don’t have to hunt with dogs to put food on the table. English Cocker Spaniels and Irish Setters are more popular as family pets than as hunting dogs. Dogs aren’t commonly used to kill rats today and it’s been a long time since the adorable Yorkshire Terrier, originally bred to kill vermin in textile mills, was used for this kind of work. Dogs still have some specialized uses for search and rescue, narcotics detection and other kinds of detection, along with other specialized skills such as therapy dog work, but most people don’t need to use dogs for work. Nevertheless, breeds still have their admirers. Some people love a dog’s appearance. Some people love a breed because they are from the same tiny corner of the world and they feel a kinship with the dogs of their ancestors. Some people love the temperament of a certain breed or its athletic ability. There are all kinds of reasons why people love a particular breed.

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 with short coats also have another advantage. It is easier to find ticks and fleas on their body. You probably spend eight times as long searching for fleas and ticks on a dog with a long coat than you do on a dog with a short coat.

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