For many of us, our pet dog is a protector and companion that’s dedicated to our homes and families, always ready to keep us safe and entertained with their antics every day. One-third of all households on the planet will have a dog, which cements their reputation as the most popular pet. Dogs also serve us on different levels — while some are content being our best friends, others will go one step further for humans and help to solve crimes, herd sheep, and even rescue people.
In this article, we share a wide range of dog facts while answering the question, “Is a dog a mammal,” to give you a comprehensive look at modern dogs and their fascinating history.
What Kind of Animals are Dogs?
Similar to a whale, a type of marine mammal, a dog is a small mammal that uses its lungs to breathe air, shed hair, and give live birth, and female dogs produce milk through mammary glands to feed their babies. These warm-blooded animals are members of the Canidae family and belong to the order Carnivora which also includes jackals and foxes. The dog family contains more than 30 different species and its history goes way back to the start of civilization.
Scientists believe that dogs have been around for as long as humans have and genetic evidence proves that they were first domesticated from wild wolves some 15,000 years ago. However, the location and timing of their domestication are still a matter of debate today. The evolution of dogs has led to various breeds of dog, many of which are loved and celebrated in our homes today.
What are Domestic Dogs?
Compared to wild animals, the canines we keep in our homes are called domestic dogs. A domestic animal is able to live with human beings; all kinds of domestic animals can be treated as pets, such as guinea pigs and cats. Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris or Canis familiaris) are often considered to be the first animals to be domesticated and have since improved our lives in numerous ways.
Much like humans, dogs are also social animals and share similar behaviors to us making them a suitable companion for all kinds of people. Their playfulness, trainability, and ability to blend into social situations have earned them a unique position within human households. Dogs are also incredibly devoted and loyal to their owners, a trait that closely resembles the human idea of love.
As a result, many dog lovers will view their relationship with their dogs as a friendship more than anything else and will treat their pups as full-fledged members of their family.
Where Did Dogs Come From?
Previous studies suggest that the domestication of dogs took place over 25,000 years ago through a few wolf populations across the high Arctic or Europe. However, new genetic studies show that dogs may have first been domesticated around eastern Asia, specifically China. Either way, there is strong evidence that dogs are a subspecies of the gray wolf and were directly descended from them.
However, the exact species of these wolves are most likely extinct, and despite the many research facilities studying the genetic studies of both ancient dogs and modern dogs, there remains no consensus on the when and where of domestication. What we do know is that both modern dogs and African wild dogs share this common ancestor, but the latter can’t be domesticated. Furthermore, we know that the first domestic dogs were actually wolves tamed by the first humans.
Over the course of thousands of years, the descendants of these wolves became less wild and more domesticated, but keep in mind that they still belong to the same species. However, some zoologists argue that they are a separate species, and believe these wild ancestors to be different from domestic dogs. Even so, some dogs today will still have their natural instinct and much like wolves, dogs are pack animals, which is why they love living with their humans.
How Do Dogs Behave?
Because of their trait as pack animals, dogs are naturally good at communicating and use different kinds of body language and facial expressions to help you understand how they feel. When your dog is excited or happy, you’ll see its tail wagging, but if it’s scared you’ll notice how its tail is tucked between the legs, and in times that it’s angry, it will snarl and bare its sharp teeth. Dogs also use different types of scents to communicate; among the most important areas for dogs is their anal glands which produce scents — this is why you’ll often see dogs smelling their bottoms.
When it comes to sexual maturity in females, it will usually occur between 9 to 10 months of age. A smaller breed of dog will go into heat earlier than larger breeds, sometimes as early as 4 months old, while large breeds can take as long as 2 years. For a lot of dogs, their first heat cycle won’t show any symptoms and is unlikely to result in successful breeding, so it’s best to wait until they reach the next breeding season before they breed.
What are Different Dog Breeds?
Whenever you visit your local dog park, you’re sure to see all kinds of dogs. Some will have a smooth coat, some will be shaggy, some will be tall and some will be short. Dogs can vary widely depending on a number of factors such as their size, weight, colors, and even different shapes.
For example, there’s a huge difference between small dogs such as the chihuahua which weighs just 6 pounds compared to large dogs like the Great Dane, with an average weight of 120 pounds. The different kinds of dogs can be separated by breed; a dog without a particular breed is known as a hybrid or mixed breed. There are a total of 450 dog breeds each with its own special traits, temperament, and characteristics.
Because there are so many of them, dogs are the most diverse mammals on land, which begs the question, “Why are some dogs so different from others?” The reason for this is that dogs have been carefully selected by humans to do a wide range of jobs over the past thousands of years.
What Jobs Do Dogs Have?
Because dogs have been around for a long time, they have been found all over the world; they have even been featured in art found around the same time as ancient Egypt. Moreover, they were the focus of writings by ancient Romans, which mentioned little dogs much like today’s toy breeds. Today, dogs serve a variety of jobs in human society, where they can be trained to carry out tasks.
Even dogs that can’t fulfill traditional jobs still have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of dog sports that allow them to show off their natural talents and skills. For instance, big and powerful dogs can become good guard dogs, small and nimble dogs can provide pest or animal control, and fast, intelligent dogs can become great herding dogs.
What are Working Dogs?
As discussed above, not all dogs are raised as at-home pets — many of them are actually kept to help humans with certain jobs. Here are just a few of them.
- Police dogs: These are large, strong, and smart dogs that can be trained to control crowds and catch criminals. A few examples of these working dogs include the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds.
- Detection dogs: Some dogs come with an excellent sense of smell that allows them to sniff out substances that are out of a human’s scope. These dogs will often be used to find bombs and illegal drugs but some dogs even have the ability to smell diseases from the human body, including heart disease. Some great breeds used for this line of work include the Golden Retriever, English Springer Spaniel, and Beagle.
- Guide dogs: These dogs go through rigorous training that will allow them to help blind people lead a more comfortable life. They will often help their owners get around safely and will have their yellow coats with them. Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds are among the best guide dogs.
- Sled dogs: In the Arctic, where the climate is always at a minimum temperature these dogs are used to pull sleds for transportation. They are protected by thick coats of fur and can live outside of shelters even in below-freezing temperatures. The most suitable dogs for this job are Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes.
- Search and Rescue dogs: Much like sniffing dogs, these pups are trained to sniff out people who are missing as a result of man-made or natural disasters. They can detect the scent of a human and can find people under snow, underwater, and even underneath collapsed buildings. The best dogs for this job are Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, Beagles, and Saint Bernards.
How Do Dogs Function?
Just like any other social animal, canines are extremely intelligent. While they’re not quite as smart as dolphins or nonhuman primates, dogs have a superior intellect compared to other animals. Their intelligence serves them well; dogs need to use their wit to work as a team when hunting and to outsmart opportunistic predators.
Moreover, dogs can learn pretty fast and can be taught various commands such as “lie down”, “sit”, “fetch”, and even to do their business outside of your home. This is among the primary reasons why dogs make for such great pets. According to scientists, the average dog is about as smart as a 2-year-old child and is able to learn and recognize 165 words.
Back in the day when the ancestors of today’s dogs had to hunt for their food, they would have heavily relied on their many senses. Lucky for them, they have a great sense of hearing and smell; while their vision isn’t as good as our own, they can sense a change in direction and movement much better than humans do. Furthermore, dogs can’t see all the colors we see — instead, their vision is colored in yellow, blue, and grey.
Their sense of smell is more than 100,000 times better than our own, which means that they can smell many different things that humans can’t. This is because dogs come with close to 220 million smell-sensitive cells spread over an area of their nose that’s only the size of a pocket handkerchief. As such, dogs can follow any scent over long distances, and their wet nose can also absorb scents, which is why some breeds are bred exclusively for scent work.
And if that’s not enough, a dog’s ear is a lot more sensitive than a human’s and can hear more than 10 times better compared to us, allowing them to hear high-pitched noises that would be impossible for humans.
How to Train Your Dogs
To get a good-mannered dog that’s well-adjusted to everyday situations, you will need to train them with perseverance and patience. Remember that you should never mistreat your pup in any way — not only is it wrong to mistreat animals, but they may also bite in defense. Keep in mind that large dogs will need a bigger area to play in and will need more exercise compared to smaller dogs.
Be sure to take them to your local park where they can run as much as they want and get the exercise needed to keep them healthy. Because you can teach them to do various things, be sure to take the time to teach them how to fetch items.
What is the Animal Welfare Act?
The Animal Welfare Act are rules and regulations established that serve as a standard that people must adhere to when caring for or treating certain animals. These apply to animals that are exposed publicly for various purposes such as pets, research, or for commercial transportation. Facilities around the United States that use animals for any purpose must provide adequate nutrition, water, housing, sanitation, and veterinary care for their animals.
They must also protect animals from extreme temperatures and weather conditions. These regulations should also be observed when dogs are sold. Trained inspectors from the USDA conduct unannounced and routine inspections of facilities that are registered and licensed through the AWA. These inspectors will either be Animal Care inspectors (ACIs) or veterinary medical officers (VMOs).
Inspectors will use these standards as a guideline by which they will assess the facility’s care for their animals. Should they meet the standards set forth, then they would prove that all the animals under their care are receiving proper treatment and care. However, when they don’t comply 100% with these guidelines, they will be held responsible for correcting their shortcomings within a specific amount of time.
If their noncompliance isn’t corrected or is of severe consequence, then the USDA has the right to file a case against the facility or enforce punishment according to law. The AWA has been enforced since 1966 but it doesn’t cover all kinds of animals in all types of activities. Here are just a few things that aren’t covered in this act:
- Farm animals that will be used for fiber (hide or fur) or food
- Coldblooded animals such as reptiles and amphibians
- Rats (genus Rattus), mice (genus Mus), or birds that are bred for the purpose of research
Apart from birds used for research, birds, in general, are covered under the Animal Welfare Act but the regulatory standards for them haven’t been established yet.
Who Should You Contact About the Inhumane Treatment of Animals?
While the USDA puts the humane treatment of all animals to be of utmost importance, their regulatory authority won’t extend to farm animals that are raised for fiber, food, or agricultural purposes. Generally, local and state laws will govern how farm animals should be treated, so you may want to contact the right local and state authorities such as the Department of Agriculture in your state or even animal control.
Throughout the country, most production industries for livestock have their own animal care guidelines that were developed with their animals in mind. However, the assurance that their animals are raised according to the right guidelines is provided through third-party companies rather than USDA.
Is a Dog a Mammal?
Dogs are certainly fascinating animals, and are definitely worthy of the title “man’s best friend.” Despite being the most popular pets in the world, not many will know their history which is equally interesting as our canine buddies. However, we need to treat all dogs with respect and love to ensure that they will stay our loyal and devoted companions through the ages.