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.
Dog breeds are typically divided into a few basic categories: companion dogs, guard dogs, hunting dogs, herding dogs and working dogs. The top dog breeds for every purpose are represented here. Despite the names, in contemporary America, most breeds - even hunting or herding dogs - service as companies for individuals and families.
For example, a bill currently under consideration in New Jersey would ban breeders from selling dogs outside the state unless the sale was made face-to-face. If you are a breeder in New Jersey and a potential buyer in say, California, is interested in one of your dogs, this buyer would have to come to New Jersey to see and buy the dog. Or the breeder would have to take the dog to California. This is obviously onerous and unnecessary. It also adds a tremendous expense to the cost of the dog. This kind of legislation is proposed in the name of “consumer protection” but it is actually meant to punish and discourage dog breeding.
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.
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