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Gordon Setter Dog

By Rita T. Gillespie on May 26 2018 05:47:14

Today there are over 400 recognized breeds of dogs in the world. Many of them have historical origins dating back hundreds, even thousands of years. Wherever humans have lived, dogs have been alongside them performing various tasks. One of the reasons dogs have been such a successful species is because they are so adaptable. They have made themselves useful in countless ways to humans so we kept feeding them, providing shelter for them, and, yes, breeding them. It’s no accident that we have dogs able to hunt, herd, guard, track, and do so many other things at an expert level. Humans figured out early on that if you bred dogs that were good at these things, you would get offspring that were also good at doing them. All of these jobs performed by dogs were necessary for our own species to survive. It’s no secret that we owe a lot to dogs, just as we do to other animals.

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.

Before you say that the person in California could find another dog closer to home, what if the New Jersey breeder is one of the few people in the country breeding that particular breed? In many cases we are talking about breeds that may only register a few litters per year. That’s why this kind of legislation is so dangerous. In some cases it could literally cause the extinction of breeds. Breeders give up breeding rather than face these kinds of legislative problems.

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