By Fran Buell
Bare Paw Dog Obedience
There are approximately 800 distinct dog breeds estimated to exist in the world today. Dog breeds are those recognized varieties of dogs with certain distinguishing characteristics. The question is how such a variety of canines came about.
A dog's genes or biological code determines its looks, temperament, behavior and what kind of physical characteristics it will have. Mutations of these genes are the catalyst for the different dog breeds in the world today. Mutations are the abrupt changes in genes from one generation to the next that result in a new characteristic or trait. There are two different ways to produce different breeds: artificial selection, which is the human manipulation of genes through breeding for specific characteristics wanted; and natural selection, which is the development of breeds that survive, reproduce and pass on their genes. An example would be: Thick-coated canines are more likely than thin-coated canines to survive, reproduce and pass on their genes in a cold climate.
Historically, man has attempted to mold the appearance and temperament of dogs for looks and usefulness. By selectively breeding dogs, i.e. "like begets like," humans will ensure that the breed continues its useful characteristics.
Farmers want canines that are useful for herding, and hunters want dogs with instincts to track and flush. Dogs with these special characteristics for specific purposes were used to establish the desired canine. In this selective type of breeding, companionability was the most looked for attribute in each breed.
More recently, selective breeding has been driven by a desire to enhance social status by keeping attractive, pedigreed dogs. Unfortunately, when dogs are bred just for looks, other characteristics such as temperament and specific behaviors become a secondary consideration.
To improve a dog breed's prospects for good health and a long life, the breeder should use responsible breeding methods that look beyond producing dogs for social status or profit.
This responsible breeding should not exclude the looks and pedigree of the dog, but should ensure the continuation of canines with high quality standards in addition to good looks and pedigree. No single breeding system is better than another, but should include the examination of both parents to make sure they represent the best of the breed, and study of their pedigree to ensure proper background for acceptable standards. Research is one of the most important aspects of starting a good, reputable breeding program with your dog.
Next week's column will examine acceptable and proper breeding systems.
Questions? E-mail email@example.com. Happy training.