Origins of the dog
From a taxonomic point of view, the dog is classified within the genus Canis , belonging to the Canidae family and which also includes animals such as wolves and foxes. Its scientific name is Canis lupus familiaris , which alone is a clear reference to the wolf, the distant ancestor of the dog. The dog that lives in our homes today presents significant behavioral, social and morphological differences compared to its wild predecessor; the most evident differences are the less sharp teeth (and in particular the canines), the lack of sharp claws, the presence of two annual reproductive cycles (the wolf has only one) and – an obviously not visible characteristic – the greater length of its intestinal system. Without a doubt the most striking aspect of the canine species is its incredible variety of aspects. The larger dogs are real giants that can weigh more than 100 kg, while among the smaller breeds you can find specimens that weigh only a few ounces. Not to mention extremely variable aspects such as fur length, nature and temperament, acuity of the senses, fur color, body shape which create a practically infinite universe of dogs, both purebred and mixed breed, each with unique characteristics. Where does all this extraordinary range of canine varieties come from, even more astonishing if you consider that the wolf from which our four-legged friends derive does not present such variability in nature? The answer must be sought in selection by man, which began in the past millennia and which, slowly but steadily, allowed the desired characteristics to be selected and transmitted to the descendants of the dogs of that time. Thus large dogs were born to defend property, agile and intelligent dogs to help shepherds in guarding their flocks, but also small and calm dogs that were simply for company.
Navigating the vast panorama of existing dog breeds may not appear to be a simple task at first glance, but the FCI ( Federation Cynologique Internationale ) has taken steps to formulate a practical classification system for dog breeds. According to this method, dog breeds are divided into 11 groups:
- Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (excluding Swiss Cattle Dogs) . Dogs such as the Border Collie, the Maremma Shepherd and the German Shepherd belong to this group.
- Pinscher and Schnauzer type dogs, Molossoids and Swiss Cattle Dogs . Some breeds: Cane Corso, Doberman, Mastiff.
- Terriers : Includes Large and Medium-sized Terriers (short-legged), Small-sized Terriers (short-legged), Bull-type Terriers (long-legged), and Companion Terriers (short-legged). Among them we find the Fox Terrier and the Scottish Terrier.
- Dachshunds : Some breeds are, for example, the long-haired and short-haired German Dachshund.
- Spitz and primitive type dogs : includes Nordic guard and shepherd dogs, Nordic hunting dogs, Nordic sled dogs, European Spitz, Asian Spitz and related breeds and Primitive type dogs (hunting and hunting with crest on the back). Some examples: Chow Chow, Siberian Husky and Volpino Italiano.
- Bloodhounds and dogs for blood trail . Among them we find, for example, Dalmatians and Jack Russells.
- Pointing Dogs : includes Continental, British and Irish Pointing Dogs. Some breeds are, for example, the English Setter and the Italian Bracco.
- Hunting dogs, retrievers and water dogs . Among them we find, for example, Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Spaniels.
- Companion dogs : includes breeds such as Chihuahuas, Spaniels (English, Pekingese and Japanese), Continental Dwarf Spaniels, Bichons, Tibetan Dogs, Small Belgian Dogs, Small Molossoids, Poodles, Kromfohrländer and Naked Dogs.
- Greyhounds : includes wire-haired, short-haired, long-haired or fringed-haired dogs. Among them we can find the Whippet and the Afghan Hound.
- Mixed breeds : they derive from the crossing of two or more different breeds, and have highly variable characteristics. This group includes all those dogs that do not belong to any breed, and which in common jargon are defined as "mutts".
Dogs, companions in work
Dogs have deservedly earned the nickname "man's best friend", but without a doubt, in addition to affection and friendship, their contribution to work has always been fundamental: just think, for example, of the multiplicity of uses that man has been able to select in his faithful companion. Hunting dogs were probably the first to be "born". There are pointing breeds which, thanks to their developed senses, indicate to man where the game is, retriever breeds which allow the rapid recovery of killed prey, trail breeds which follow the traces left by game. In addition to these, hunting breeds are indispensable for searching for truffles or other food sources, while small dogs such as Terriers stand out for their ability to flush out small prey such as rodents and hares. Various dog breeds are used, now as in the past, also in sheep farming. Sheepdogs are intelligent, fast and lively animals, who offer their help in shepherding flocks and finding lost animals. There are also numerous breeds of guard dogs such as Molossers and Great Danes, selected for their massive size which represents an excellent deterrent against intrusions by strangers. These dogs also have a highly developed territorial attachment which helps them in their task of defending property. Some dogs were even used as draft and pack animals: thanks to their size and notable physical strength, they helped man pull sleds (a classic example is the Siberian Husky) or carry weights. Even in modern times, dogs are helpful: for example, the contribution given by guide dogs for blind people, or by specimens used in pet therapy with patients suffering from mental, physical or mental disorders is invaluable. Finally, we must not forget the fundamental role of dogs "enlisted" in the police force for the detection of drugs or explosives, and the dogs trained to search for people under avalanches or rubble.
The dog is an animal with a strong intelligence and deep-rooted sociability, which loves to live in a group (the "pack") and knows how to recognize its hierarchies. This is why his coexistence with man is so fruitful: the dog recognizes the figure of the leader in us and is willing to accept our supremacy. Naturally, in most cases it is not the instinct of dominance that guides our behavior, but feelings of affection: the dog, however, considers us as real points of reference. The dog's obedience and loyalty are also due to the fact that the leader of the pack, or the owner, is able to provide it with food exactly as the pack leader does in nature. The relationship between us and the dog is therefore based on building a solid relationship of trust which, for training, is an essential starting point. A dog that trusts its owner, its handler or its trainer is willing to follow the commands given to it, and is able to learn many behavioral rules. According to animal behavior researchers, the intelligence of a dog is comparable to that of a child of around two or three years of age. In fact, a dog has the ability to recognize a certain number of different words and commands (the most intelligent dogs can memorize over 200), and count up to a few units (usually no more than 3-5). How do you train a dog? There's certainly no need for tugging, screaming or hitting: the gentle method is the only one that patiently repays your efforts and patience. This method is based on the administration of a reward (a tasty treat, a caress…) every time the animal carries out an order correctly. Knowing that performing a certain action leads to a reward makes the animal tend to repeat this behavior.
Diet and health
A dog that is fit and in excellent health is undoubtedly a dog that is fed correctly. There is no suitable diet for all dogs, nor for all breeds, nor for all ages: in this case the vet must be considered as a point of reference for planning a diet that is balanced and meets the needs of each dog. dog. The most practical solution is to use ready-made feed on the market, available in a wide variety of formulations capable of satisfying all needs. There are both dry and wet products, suitable for puppies, elderly dogs, particularly active specimens or even for those who suffer from food intolerances or digestive difficulties. In any case, it is essential to follow the instructions and doses indicated on the label, and always leave a bowl full of fresh, clean water available to the animal. Some owners prefer to provide their dogs with a "homemade" diet, preparing their food themselves. This option, however, is only advisable for those who are experts, since feeding your dog with classic table scraps or with foods selected without due evaluation can easily lead to deficiencies of minerals, vitamins or other nutrients. Some foods that are quite common for humans must be strictly banned from dog food: these animals, in fact, have a digestive system that is very different from ours (they are in fact by nature carnivores, not omnivores like us) and are not capable of to metabolize the wide range of foods consumed by their owners. The worst of all is undoubtedly chocolate, since cocoa is toxic for dogs: an excess can even lead to death. Among the prohibited foods we also find particularly seasoned foods, or those that are spicy and rich in spices; onion and cabbage are also capable of destroying red blood cells and causing anemia, while legumes and starchy foods trigger excessive intestinal fermentation.
More information on the world of dogs
In this section we report some links that can be useful for finding information relating to dogs and everything that revolves around them: health and well-being, nutrition, training and much more. Through these sites it is also possible to consult and find out about the breeders where you can look for a specific breed of puppy, or adopt a foundling. Breeding of purebred dogs On this website, which is comprehensive and easy to consult, you can find information relating to the different breeds of dogs, with their characteristics and particularities. A section is entirely dedicated to a complete list of purebred dog breeders sorted alphabetically, with addresses and contact details (telephone, fax and e-mail) that allow you to communicate with professional breeders. Allevamentirazze.it Allevamentirazze.it is a truly in-depth and informative site where you can find information regarding dog breeding in Italy. It is possible to search by geographical area (region and province), by size of the desired dog (small, medium or large) and, with a simple click, find the nearest kennel that meets your needs. Cani.com This vast and complete portal is a real point of reference both for dog enthusiasts and for those who want to know more about breeds, breeding, veterinary trainers and boarding houses for our four-legged friends, as well as accessories, health and nutrition. It also contains a very well-stocked photographic section and a useful noticeboard where you can insert and consult information regarding the sale of puppies and dogs; the sections dedicated to news and events are constantly updated. Cercapadrone.it A guide dedicated to dogs could not fail to dedicate a section to the foundlings who populate Italian kennels. On the Cercapadrone.it website it is possible to consult advertisements for adopting a dog or a cat thanks to the collaboration with kennels, volunteers, associations and private individuals. A list of the different kennels in Italy, divided by region, is also available on this site.
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Faithful companion of man par excellence, the dog is often not just an animal but a real member of the family in which it lives. Speaking of dogs, we certainly cannot forget their vocation as a help to humans, which they have accompanied for millennia in herding and protection, up to the most modern uses in the anti-drug field and in the event of natural disasters. Here is a guide on the dog and its extraordinary role in human life.