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Dogs have been around for thousands of years. They are intelligent, carnivorous (meat eating) mammals and part of the canine family which includes wolves, coyotes, foxes, and jackals.
The domestic dog is one of the most widely kept working and companion animals in human history, as well as being a food source in some cultures.
Records such as fossils and cave drawings show that dogs have coexisted with humans for perhaps as long as 14,000 years. Dogs have been used in a range of ways such as hunting, herding and protecting stock, pulling sleds and small carts, law enforcement and detection and by disabled people. These days many people keep a dog, not to work for them but for companionship and enjoyment.
Dogs are social animals that used to live in groups known as ‘packs’. When in a group today, many dogs play and run together as if they were in a pack. At home, they view their family as their pack and that is why it is so important that they know their place in the family pack. If they don't know their place is at the bottom of the pack they get confused.
There are estimated to be 400 million dogs in the world and over 800 different breeds with a great variety of hair type, colour, shape and size. Breeds have different characteristics, some are hunters - by sight or scent, some retrieve and other dogs by nature, guard or herd stock.
The Chihuahua is the smallest breed of dog, the Irish Wolfhound the tallest, and the Greyhound the fastest.
The average lifespan for a dog is about 11 years, although some are known to have lived much longer, occasionally into their mid or late 20s. Small breeds tend to live longer than large breeds. For example an Irish Wolfhound is expected to live until it is six or seven years old, whereas a Chihuahua could live 13-15 years.
Dogs do not mate for life. A female dog has her puppies about 63 days after she becomes pregnant, with three to six puppies in the average litter. Puppies are born blind, but can see after one to three weeks have passed.
Most dogs have very keen senses of smell and hearing. In fact they can smell scents and hear high-pitched noises that go unnoticed by humans.
Dog behaviour tells us a lot about the way they’re feeling. This includes barking, snarling, growling and whining, tail and ear position, fur position and posture.
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