Why these dog breeds have such specific quirks | blood count life (2023)

It's pretty common knowledge that Basset Hounds have a great sense of smell, that Whippets can run like the wind, and that Labrador Retrievers can swim like Penny Oleksiak. Dogs have adapted for hundreds of years to do certain things well, but what exactly is it that gives your breed of dog that competitive advantage? We spoke with Richard Paquette, director of the Canadian Kennel Club and all-breed dog show judge, to learn about eight popular breeds and their unique physical characteristics.

Labrador retriever

Why these dog breeds have such specific quirks | blood count life (1)

We all know someone with a goofy happy Labrador Retriever in the house. They make good companions and, as the name suggests, they are also very good at rescuing. Labradors are part of the group of breeds known as hunting dogs. Contrary to what you might think about your lazy couch potato, these dogs are made to work very hard. The Newfoundland is a heavily built, muscular dog that is used on fishing boats to help pull the nets,” says Paquette. “A smaller, more versatile retriever was also developed. This became the Labrador Retriever. They have a very thick waterproof double layer that keeps them dry and protects against hypothermia. And that tail? “It is used as a rudder. A Labrador's long, strong tail helps guide the dog through the water on its way to catch prey,” says Paquette. By far the most interesting feature of a lab is that it is actually interconnected. The net helps Fido propel himself powerfully through the water so he can get to and from the quarry as quickly as possible.


If you ever get the chance to meet a Basset Hound in real life, you won't soon forget it. But the unique appearance of him is not just there to melt your heart. Part of the hound group (the bloodhounds to be more precise), the basset hound was built to expertly track prey. Keeping its long, powerful nose to the ground, it can find the scent trail of almost any type of creature. And those ears? In fact, they help prevent the scent from escaping by concentrating it in the front of the dog's face! As if that's not good enough, the dog's paws keep him so glued to the ground that he doesn't have to try very hard to find the scent. The Basset Hound's tail is also often tipped with white. Paquette explains that in the past this acted as a flag for hunters, keeping the hound visible for miles as it ran for a scent. And, of course, we can not forget about that characteristic howl or "howl". Since the dogs were often miles ahead of the hunters, they needed a very loud, clear call to let the hunters know when they found something.


Why these dog breeds have such specific quirks | blood count life (3)

The sighthound looks like a smaller version of a greyhound. These little ones also belong to the group of hunting dogs, but they hunt more by sight than by smell. Their eyes are almond-shaped, unlike the much rounder eyes of their canine cousins, and are located on the sides of their heads to give them better peripheral vision for tracking prey. Of course, once they catch bugs, they need to be able to catch them, right? Therefore, the entire muscular and skeletal structure of this dog is designed for speed. The sighthound's ribcage is deep and narrow to accommodate large lungs and a large heart. Paquette adds that its front legs are "tapered", meaning that they are pointed rather than rounded to improve aerodynamics.

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Husky siberiano

Siberian huskies have made their way into the living rooms of devoted fans everywhere, but of course, they haven't always stayed indoors. As part of the working dog group, huskies long filled the role of "wagon dogs," hauling loads long distances before there were golf carts and ATVs to do it for us. Their slightly longer than tall physique makes them perfectly suited for pulling sleds over rough terrain and also helps them withstand their native northern climates. Being outside in the cold of the far north is no joke, but if you've ever seen a husky outside in a snowstorm, you know how much he loves it. Siberian Huskies have a double coat consisting of a thick outer coat to resist moisture, wind, and snow, and a soft undercoat to keep them warm. Their fluffy tails aren't just for decoration, Paquette tells us: When sled dogs sleep outside, they cover their faces with their tails as they snuggle up tight to keep warm. Even their long, thin noses contribute to a huskie's warmth by ensuring that the air warms up before it reaches their lungs.

wire fox terrier

Why these dog breeds have such specific quirks | blood count life (5)

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The terrier group is serious. These breeds have a strong need to catch small, fast animals, making them a rat's worst nightmare. The Wire Fox Terrier is particularly good at catching vermin, according to Paquette, thanks to a rough coat that acts like "armor"—even tiny rodent teeth can't pierce it. Its long, narrow body also allows the Wire Fox Terrier to reach burrows and small spaces, while a "punitive bite" makes it easier for the breed to grab and kill its prey.


Why these dog breeds have such specific quirks | blood count life (6)

Some dogs' most important job is to bring a little joy into our lives. Part of the group of toy dogs, the Pekingese traces its origins to the palaces of the Forbidden City in Beijing, now Beijing, China. From the beginning, her sole purpose was to hang out with royalty and look dignified while doing it. The Pekingese's eyes are really big and round, almost imitating human eyes, and its long, shiny fur is pleasant to the touch. In terms of physical ability, this dog won't win any competitions, but Paquette says the royals would have preferred the Pekingese to be less agile to prevent it from running away and make it more dependent on its owners.

A bottle

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Why these dog breeds have such specific quirks | blood count life (7)

Poodles are in the non-sporting group, which basically means that they cannot be easily categorized. Paquette says that poodles are one of the most intelligent breeds and have historically been used as water retrievers. And that fancy haircut that everyone loves to laugh about? It actually served a very important purpose. According to Paquette, tufts of hair were strategically placed to keep the dog's organs warm, while the rest of the body was trimmed to keep the dog light in the water. Common places for a lock are on the back (to protect the kidneys), around the chest (to protect the lungs and heart), and on the head (to prevent heat from escaping). The hairs around the ankles, also known as "wristbands," keep joints warm, but they were also designed "to mimic poodles' paws and to better propel dogs through the water," says Paquette.

German shepherd dog

Why these dog breeds have such specific quirks | blood count life (8)

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German Shepherds are one of the most versatile and hardworking breeds around. And though they currently work with the police, bomb squads, avalanche rescue teams and more, these dogs were originally bred in Germany to guard and protect flocks of sheep. Their large, pointed ears are designed to localize the sounds of predators miles away. That slight backward lean that's so recognizable in the breed now also makes the German Shepherd a good "trotter," says Paquette. This means that they can easily keep up with a human herder and herd him for days without tiring.

Danielle Hodges is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and a Family Paws Licensed Parent Educator for Dog, Baby and Toddler Safety. She is co-owner of the Follow the Leader Inc dog training school with campuses in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario.


Why are there so many breeds of dog if they are all the same species? ›

Dogs are simply too young, from an evolutionary perspective. It usually takes hundreds of thousands of years or more for mammals to evolve into distinct new species, requiring the slow accumulation of mutations that cause inheritable changes to its physical characteristics – or “phenotype”.

Why are there so many dog breeds with different traits and characteristics? ›

Different dog breeds developed as their owners bred their dogs to encourage certain traits, behaviors, and physical characteristics. Some breeds of dogs have existed for a long time, but most are fairly recent, only a few hundred years old.

Why are dogs selectively bred? ›

For over two centuries, dogs have been selectively bred for a variety of purposes: for work, sport, showing or companionship. Dogs have evolved from domesticating wolves. Although still unclear, it is generally believed that early humans were accompanied by one Palaeolithic dog 'breed'.

What is the oldest dog breed still alive? ›

Mastiffs of all types (such as the Korean Mastiff) have been around for thousands of years but the Tibetan is believed to be the oldest.

Can dogs mate with wolves? ›

Yes, wolves and domestic dogs can breed and produce fertile offspring. However, dogs have been shaped for human needs in the process of domestication, so that they are different from their wild ancestors in many characteristics.

What makes dog breeds different from each other? ›

Just like us, dogs inherit genetic information from their doggie dad and mom. That genetic information determines how they look. Scientists have identified how many different genes get passed down through the generations to affect how dogs look.

Do dog breeds really have different personalities? ›

A new study has found that all dogs have different personalities – even dogs of the same breed. Elinor Karlsson studies genetics at the University of Massachusetts. She co-wrote a report about the study, which appeared recently in the publication Science.

What makes the dog different from each other? ›

Dogs began to be bred for specific purposes that relied on their appearance, agility, size, form, and more. This caused dogs to start looking very different from one another. Nowadays, we mostly refer to this process as "selective breeding".

Are dog breeds natural selection? ›

Dog breeding is another prime example of artificial selection. Although all dogs are descendants of the wolf, the use of artificial selection has allowed humans to drastically alter the appearance of dogs.

Are dogs man made? ›

Dogs were just a loose category of wolves until around 15,000 years ago, when our ancestors tamed and began to manage them. We fed them, bred them, and spread them from continent to continent. While other wolf descendants died out, dogs grew into a new species. We invented the dog.

What does a selective dog mean? ›

Dog selective dogs are pickier about what dogs they like and are comfortable being approached by. These dogs are sometimes leash-reactive and may display behaviors like barking or lunging at some or all dogs they see. They benefit from close supervision when meeting other dogs.

Who was the first dog on earth? ›

The archaeological record and genetic analysis show the remains of the Bonn-Oberkassel dog buried beside humans 14,200 years ago to be the first undisputed dog, with disputed remains occurring 36,000 years ago.

What was the 1st dog breed? ›

Oft-cited contenders for the title of oldest dog breeds include the basenji, which was depicted in cave paintings in Libya that date back to around 6000 BC, the Chinese saluki, which was depicted on Egyptian caves dating to 2100 BC, and the Afghan hound, which is classed as a basal breed and predates modern dog breeds.

What is the purest dog breed? ›

With that in mind, some of the purest dog breeds are Afghan Hounds, Alaskan Malamutes, Basenjis, and Chow Chows.

Can a dog be half fox? ›

Short answer: no, they can't. They simply don't have compatible parts. (Of course, that doesn't mean they can't be friends: witness Juniper the Fox and Moose the Dog, above). The longer answer to why dog-fox hybrids can't exist has to do with the two species having vastly different numbers of chromosomes.

What dog is closest to a wolf? ›

The Alaskan Malamute is the closest to a wolf in terms of appearance. Further, they may look alike due to the Alaskan Malamute's genetic make-up having extensive crossover with the wolf. This dog breed is loyal, playful, and affectionate with its owners.

Can a dog mate with a cat? ›

And they do exist—mules, for instance, are the result of a horse and donkey mating. But creating hybrids of animals that are very genetically distinct from each other—such as a dog and a cat—is scientifically impossible, as is one species giving birth to an entirely different one.

What makes the dog unique? ›

Their sense of smell is at least 40x better than ours

The area of cells in the brain that detect different smells is around 40 times larger in dogs than humans. This means that your dog can pick up on way more smells than we ever could. This is why dogs are often used to sniff out people, drugs and even money!

How did humans create different dog breeds? ›

The grouping of different breeds that share particular jobs suggests that ancient breeders likely bred dogs for specific purposes, choosing to care for those that were best at guarding or herding. Then, in the past 200 years, people subdivided those larger groups into breeds.

Can any dog breed with any dog? ›

All domestic dog breeds are able to interbreed to give birth to reproductively viable offspring. This is because their genomes remain relatively unchanged, despite their physical characteristics appearing so different.

What dog has the most human like personality? ›

Top 15 Dog Breeds With the Best Personalities
  • #1 Labradoodle. This hybrid breed of the Labrador Retriever and Poodle is a furfectly fun fur friend for anyone. ...
  • #2 Parson Russell Terrier. ...
  • #4 Bichon Frise. ...
  • #5 Bull Terrier. ...
  • #6 French Bulldog. ...
  • #7 Border Terrier. ...
  • #8 Schipperke. ...
  • #9 Dachshund.

Where do dogs get their personalities from? ›

Dogs learn to imitate their owners' personality traits and behavior. While some people consider their dog's cute pets, others consider them family members. No matter how you define your relationship with your dog, chances are good that over time your personalities mesh.

Do all dogs have the same instincts? ›

These are instincts that have been intentionally bred into these dogs over generations. But while dogs can be bred to encourage particular skills and behaviors, there are also a number of natural instincts that every canine shares.

Can 2 different dogs mate? ›

Theoretically, it is possible to take any two breeds of dogs and breed them together. You can, in fact, even breed dogs with other genetically-similar species, such as wolves, coyotes or dingoes, to produce what is known as a 'hybrid'.

Do dogs prefer humans or other dogs? ›

Research shows that domestic dogs have been selectively bred to be strongly biased to love humans more strongly than other dogs. The fact that dogs are biased toward the human bond may make re-homing dogs in pairs unnecessary.

Why did dogs evolve so fast? ›

Dogs were probably domesticated by accident, when wolves began trailing ancient hunter-gatherers to snack on their garbage. Docile wolves may have been slipped extra food scraps, the theory goes, so they survived better, and passed on their genes.

Are dog breeds a form of evolution? ›

With human evolution and sophistication came breeding sophistication and evolution. Dogs were bred and selected for "desirable traits" leading to the modern dog breeds of today.

What did the study of dog breeds demonstrate to Darwin? ›

In Descent of Man, Darwin's used dogs to illustrate the evolution of the moral sense. He gave the example of a pointer who displayed remorse after failing in his duty by giving chase.

Is dog sperm and human sperm the same? ›

Dog sperm looks similar to human sperm, but unlike the human version, dog sperm isn't ready to fertilize an egg right away. That's because dog sperm has a coating of cholesterol that covers its head, where the DNA information is kept.

Can dogs exist without humans? ›

And the rest — more than 800 million dogs — are already living on their own, she says. So would they survive without us? They already do. However if you took humans out of the equation, life would get harder for dogs before it got easier.

How did dog get pregnant? ›

Breeding occurs when the female dog is receptive to the male, usually, 10–20 days into her heat cycle, and her eggs are fertilized. Note that because canine ovulation results in a number of eggs, it is possible for dogs to conceive with more than one father in the same litter of puppies.

Do dogs stop liking other dogs? ›

However, most dogs' social skills change as they mature. Some are “dog tolerant” (indifferent or friendly) while others are “dog selective” (liking some dogs but not others) or “dog reactive” (needing close supervision and safe management).

What age do dogs become dog selective? ›

The most common time frame where I receive the “scuffles have started” sorts of calls is when the dog is between 9 months and 2.5 years of age.

Are police dogs selectively bred? ›

For dogs working with police forces, their lives are the result of selective breeding. Selective breeding occurs because of the need for service dogs to be highly skilled, as well as to ensure the breeds are extremely trainable.

Why are animals bred selectively? ›

The purpose of selective breeding is to develop livestock whose desirable traits have strong heritable components and can therefore be propagated.

What type of selection is dog breeding? ›

An example of artificial selection - Dog breeding.

What traits of dogs have been selectively bred? ›

As they deliberately manipulated the appearance of dogs to create or accentuate physical characteristics that were considered aesthetically pleasing, like the flat face of a bulldog or low-slung eyelids of a Bloodhound, breeders also created physical disabilities.

Is selective breeding of dogs evolution? ›

In fact, the evolution of the majority of dog breeds is a relatively recent phenomenon, beginning with selective breeding practices during the past 200 years. Today, various breeds demonstrate a huge variability in size and shape, as well as coat characteristics.

Does selective breeding hurt animals? ›

Risks of selective breeding: reduced genetic variation can lead to attack by specific insects or disease, which could be extremely destructive. rare disease genes can be unknowingly selected as part of a positive trait, leading to problems with specific organisms, eg a high percentage of Dalmatian dogs are deaf.

What happens when siblings mate? ›

Inbreeding occurs when two closely related organisms mate with each other and produce offspring. The two main negative consequences of inbreeding are an increased risk of undesirable genes and a reduction in genetic diversity. The House of Habsburg may be the best example of the effects of inbreeding in humans.

When did humans start selectively breeding dogs? ›

The size, shape, and behavior of the modern domesticated dog has been sculpted by artificial selection for at least 14,000 years. The genetic substrates of selective breeding, however, remain largely unknown.

Are most dogs dog selective? ›

However, that's not true: the majority of adult dogs are dog tolerant or dog selective. Since dog selective dogs are not able to hang out in as many public places, we see them less often, and therefore many people do not realize that this sociability level is as common as it actually is.

What makes a dog a dog? ›

A: The canine genome is, well, what makes a dog a dog. A genome is the set of chromosomes found in every cell of every organism. The chromosomes contain the heritable genetic material that directs an organism's development. The genetic material that makes up chromosomes is called DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid.

How do you breed a specific trait? ›

Selective breeding (also called artificial selection) is the process by which humans use animal breeding and plant breeding to selectively develop particular phenotypic traits (characteristics) by choosing which typically animal or plant males and females will sexually reproduce and have offspring together.

Why did humans selectively breed German shepherds? ›

The dogs were bred to preserve traits that assisted in their job of herding sheep and protecting flocks from predators. In Germany this was practiced within local communities, where shepherds selected and bred dogs.

Which dog breed is genetically closest to the wolf? ›

The Siberian Husky, originally and still used for sledding, is very similar to wolves. Overtime not only has the resemblance to wolves stayed similar, but the genetic composition has as well.

What was the first breed of dog? ›

Oft-cited contenders for the title of oldest dog breeds include the basenji, which was depicted in cave paintings in Libya that date back to around 6000 BC, the Chinese saluki, which was depicted on Egyptian caves dating to 2100 BC, and the Afghan hound, which is classed as a basal breed and predates modern dog breeds.


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