Various classifications have been made of the domesticated dog that can enlighten us to their individual needs and abilities based on genetics and learned behaviors.
Learning More About Our Four-Legged Friends’ Needs and Abilities
Canis lupus familiaris (aka “man’s best friend”) is a domesticated subspecies of the Grey Wolf. Taming occurred nearly 15,000 years ago and the dog quickly became omnipresent in cultures across the globe. He was extremely valuable to early human settlements, and in fact, it is often suggested that successful emigration across the Bering Strait may not have been possible without the help of dogs that pulled sleds of people and supplies. Currently it is estimated that there are more than 400 million dogs in the world. Each breed and individual dog’s abilities however are shaped by various genetic traits and learned behaviors. Some were intentionally bred by humans, others were a result of the need to survive. Due to his wide range of traits, the dog has developed into hundreds of breeds representing more behavioral and morphological variations that any other land mammal.
One-hundred and fifty-seven breeds are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) which have been separated into Sporting, Non-Sporting, Working, Hound, Terrier, Herding, Toy and Miscellaneous groups. However, there are other terms used to describe dogs that enlighten us to their abilities and needs. A dog can fall into several of these types, but knowing your dog’s type can better help you know your dog.
- Ancientor Primitive dogs show the fewest genetic differences from the wolf and therefore most closely resemble their “canine cousins” in looks, temperament and drive. Breeds considered primitive include the Afghan, Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Chow Chow, Lhasa Apso, Basenji, Canaan Dog, Ibizan, New Guinea Singing Dog, Pekingese, Pharaoh Hound, Saluki, Shiba Inu, Samoyed, Siberian Husky and the Tibetan Terrier.
- Barrel-Chested dogs have round chests that provide these animals with maximum structural strength that resists compression. Students of Pet First-Aid know that sometimes CPR is performed in a different fashion on these breeds since it’s harder to compress their strong ribcage. Rottweilers, St. Bernards and Staffordshire Terriers are considered to have barrel-shaped chests.
- Bird Dogs refer to any dog used by man for hunting.
- Brachycephalic or Flat-Faced dogs have a broad, short head with a pushed-in face. Special care should be taken for these dogs often suffer breathing difficulties due to their shortened nasal passages. Do not let them get overweight or overheated as distress can occur quickly. The Boston Terrier, Boxer, English and French Bulldogs belong to this group while the Brussels Griffon, Cavalier King Charles, Pekingese, Pug, Shih Tzu and Yorkshire Terrier are often referred to as Extreme Brachycephalic meaning their muzzle practically disappears into the face.
- Detection Dogs are trained to detect explosives, drugs, food items, dead bodies and even human illness, while Guide Dogs assist blind, deaf and immobile humans by serving as their non-functioning eyes, ears and limbs.
- Dogs with an Elliptical Shaped Chest (such as the Jack or Parsons Russell) have a longer more flattened rib cage which can compress slightly allowing them to go underground or in tighter quarters while maintaining sufficient lung capacity.
- Lap dogs fit into your lap for cuddling; however, a 75 lb dog can become a lap dog at the sound of a loud noise so don’t rule any canine out of this category.
- Molossoid dogs have deep wide chests and blunt muzzles such as the Mastiff, Bulldog, Cane Corso, Dogue de Bordeaux, Presa Canario, Rottweiler and Sharpei.
- Non-Shedding is a deceiving term as every dog sheds some hair and dander, but some shed way more than others. Breeds that shed minimally include the Affenpinscher, Airedale, American Hairless Terrier, Basenji, Bichon, Cairn Terrier, Chinese Crested, Doodleman Pinscher, Havanese, IItalian Greyhound, Maltese, Shih Tzu, Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier, Poodle and the Yorkie.
- Scent Hounds specialize in following a smell or scent. Their long drooping ears help them collect scent from the air and keep it near their face and nose. A few scent hounds include the Basset Hound, Beagle, Bloodhound, Dachshund, Foxhound, Norwegian Elkhound and Rhodesian Ridgeback.
- Sightor Gaze Hounds have keen vision and great agility that helps them pursue prey by keeping it in sight and then overcoming it with tremendous speed. The Greyhound and Whippet may first come to mind, but the Afghan, Borzoi, Irish Wolfhound, Saluki and Scottish Deerhound are also this type.
- Slab-Sidedor Flat-Ribbed dogs have a chest that is deeper at the midpoint making it the most flexible and compressible. Sight hounds are usually slab-sided which explains their ability to run long distances due to the flattened rib cage allowing the maximum intake of oxygen.
- Teacup is a marketing term for Toy Dogs. These dogs are mostly a result of selective breeding and include the Affenpinscher, Bichon Frise, Cairn Terrier, Chihuahua, American Hairless Terrier (but also comes in a larger size), Havanese, Maltese and Yorkie.
- Truffle Houndsare dogs that have been trained to find — but not eat — the high-priced truffles that grow underground.