A Colorado study found bites in children were less severe than bites in adults.[161] The incidence of dog bites in the US is 12.9 per 10,000 inhabitants, but for boys aged 5 to 9, the incidence rate is 60.7 per 10,000. Moreover, children have a much higher chance to be bitten in the face or neck.[162] Sharp claws with powerful muscles behind them can lacerate flesh in a scratch that can lead to serious infections.[163]

In Hindu mythology, Yama, the god of death owns two watch dogs who have four eyes. They are said to watch over the gates of Naraka.[193] Hunter god Muthappan from North Malabar region of Kerala has a hunting dog as his mount. Dogs are found in and out of the Muthappan Temple and offerings at the shrine take the form of bronze dog figurines.[194]

There are many household plants that are poisonous to dogs including begonia, Poinsettia and aloe vera.[40]

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The latest study using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) comparing humans and dogs showed that dogs have same response to voices and use the same parts of the brain as humans do. This gives dogs the ability to recognize emotional human sounds, making them friendly social pets to humans.[139]

Later genetic studies strongly supported dogs and gray wolves forming two sister monophyletic clades within the one species,[29][30] and that the common ancestor of dogs and extant wolves is extinct.[30]

The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris or Canis familiaris)[2] is a domesticated canine which has been selectively bred over millennia for various behaviours, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes.[3]

Domestic dogs have been selectively bred for millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes.[3] Modern dog breeds show more variation in size, appearance, and behavior than any other domestic animal.[3] Dogs are predators and scavengers, and like many other predatory mammals, the dog has powerful muscles, fused wrist bones, a cardiovascular system that supports both sprinting and endurance, and teeth for catching and tearing.

Domestic dogs often display the remnants of countershading, a common natural camouflage pattern. A countershaded animal will have dark coloring on its upper surfaces and light coloring below,[36] which reduces its general visibility. Thus, many breeds will have an occasional "blaze", stripe, or "star" of white fur on their chest or underside.[37]

The role of the dog in Chinese mythology includes a position as one of the twelve animals which cyclically represent years (the zodiacal dog).

Loyal, curious, famously funny; fearless out of all proportion to their size.

The dogs' value to early human hunter-gatherers led to them quickly becoming ubiquitous across world cultures. Dogs perform many roles for people, such as hunting, herding, pulling loads, protection, assisting police and military, companionship, and, more recently, aiding handicapped individuals. This influence on human society has given them the nickname "man's best friend" in the Western world. In some cultures, however, dogs are also a source of meat.[117][118]

It is estimated that three-quarters of the world's dog population lives in the developing world as feral, village, or community dogs, with pet dogs uncommon.[86]

In China, Korea, and Japan, dogs are viewed as kind protectors.[192]

People often enter their dogs in competitions[147] such as breed-conformation shows or sports, including racing, sledding and agility competitions.

Friendly, lovable, inquisitive; fearlessly game for just about anything.

The coats of domestic dogs are of two varieties: "double" being common with dogs (as well as wolves) originating from colder climates, made up of a coarse guard hair and a soft down hair, or "single", with the topcoat only.

Dogs have very complex needs and each dog is unique. There's no one 'perfect' way to care for all dogs because every dog and every situation is different. It's up to you how you look after your dog, but you must take reasonable steps to ensure that you meet all your dog's needs.

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Service dogs such as guide dogs, utility dogs, assistance dogs, hearing dogs, and psychological therapy dogs provide assistance to individuals with physical or mental disabilities.[144][145] Some dogs owned by epileptics have been shown to alert their handler when the handler shows signs of an impending seizure, sometimes well in advance of onset, allowing the guardian to seek safety, medication, or medical care.[146]

This selection process has resulted in over 400 different breeds of dog. Why not view our full Dog Factfile (PDF 48KB).

The typical lifespan of dogs varies widely among breeds, but for most the median longevity, the age at which half the dogs in a population have died and half are still alive, ranges from 10 to 13 years.[48][49][50][51] Individual dogs may live well beyond the median of their breed.

Neutering reduces problems caused by hypersexuality, especially in male dogs.[62] Spayed female dogs are less likely to develop some forms of cancer, affecting mammary glands, ovaries, and other reproductive organs.[63] However, neutering increases the risk of urinary incontinence in female dogs,[64] and prostate cancer in males,[65] as well as osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, cruciate ligament rupture, obesity, and diabetes mellitus in either sex.[66]

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In Homer's epic poem the Odyssey, when the disguised Odysseus returns home after 20 years he is recognized only by his faithful dog, Argos, who has been waiting for his return.

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There are approximately eight and a half million dogs kept as pets in the UK*. There are many different breeds and types of dog, all varying in size, body shape and personality. 

Read our expert reviewed pet care information to find out more about the needs of dogs:  

It's generally accepted that the common ancestor of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) is the wolf.

Choosing a purebred is the best way to know what a dog's looks and personality might be like, but it's never a guarantee

In 2013, a study found that mixed breeds live on average 1.2 years longer than pure breeds, and that increasing body-weight was negatively correlated with longevity (i.e. the heavier the dog the shorter its lifespan).[47]

Coyotes and big cats have also been known to attack dogs. Leopards in particular are known to have a predilection for dogs, and have been recorded to kill and consume them regardless of the dog's size or ferocity.[104] Tigers in Manchuria, Indochina, Indonesia, and Malaysia are reputed to kill dogs with the same vigor as leopards.[105] Striped hyenas are major predators of village dogs in Turkmenistan, India, and the Caucasus.[106]

Dog communication is about how dogs "speak" to each other, how they understand messages that humans send to them, and how humans can translate the ideas that dogs are trying to transmit.[79]:xii These communication behaviors include eye gaze, facial expression, vocalization, body posture (including movements of bodies and limbs) and gustatory communication (scents, pheromones and taste). Humans communicate with dogs by using vocalization, hand signals and body posture.

Dog

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Dogs bear their litters roughly 58 to 68 days after fertilization,[3][57] with an average of 63 days, although the length of gestation can vary. An average litter consists of about six puppies,[58] though this number may vary widely based on the breed of dog. In general, toy dogs produce from one to four puppies in each litter, while much larger breeds may average as many as twelve.

It's important for people owning or caring for a dog know about dog laws, to find out more please download our Dogs and the law information (169 KB).

Dogs have lived and worked with humans in so many roles that they have earned the unique nickname, "man's best friend",[140] a phrase used in other languages as well. They have been bred for herding livestock,[141] hunting (e.g. pointers and hounds),[82] rodent control,[3] guarding, helping fishermen with nets, detection dogs, and pulling loads, in addition to their roles as companions.[3] In 1957, a husky-terrier mix named Laika became the first animal to orbit the Earth.[142][143]

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Citing a 2008 study, the U.S. Center for Disease Control estimated in 2015 that 4.5 million people in the USA are bitten by dogs each year.[158] A 2015 study estimated that 1.8% of the U.S. population is bitten each year.[159] In the 1980s and 1990s the US averaged 17 fatalities per year, while in the 2000s this has increased to 26.[160] 77% of dog bites are from the pet of family or friends, and 50% of attacks occur on the property of the dog's legal owner.[160]

The dogs of Thibet are twice the size of those seen in India, with large heads and hairy bodies. They are powerful animals, and are said to be able to kill a tiger. During the day they are kept chained up, and are let loose at night to guard their masters' house.[120]