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.
The study found distinct genetic clusters within modern dogs that largely corresponded to phenotype or function. These included spitz-breeds, toy dogs, spaniels, Mastiff-like breeds, small terriers, retrievers, herding dogs, scent-hounds, and sight-hounds. There were 17 breeds that conflicted with phenotype or function and these were thought to be the result of crossing some of the other phenotypes. As in a 2004 study that found 9 ‘ancient breeds’ to be genetically divergent, the study found 13 breeds that were genetically divergent from the modern breeds: the Basenji, Saluki, Afghan hound, Samoyed, Canaan dog, New Guinea singing dog, dingo, Chow Chow, Chinese Shar Pei, Akita, Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky and American Eskimo dog. Results also indicated that the Basenji had recent admixture with Middle Eastern wolves.
If you do not have time to exercise your dog daily with a brisk walk and lots of running choose a breed that does not have high exercise requirements. All of the breeds who require high amounts of exercise make terrific jogging, hiking, and ridding companions. So if you want your dog to accompany you on long runs choose one of these highly active breeds built for endurance and as much exercise as you can throw at them - they will love you for it (and a tired dog is not destructive).
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.
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