Domestic Dog

Learn some things you might not have known about man's best friend.

A greater Swiss mountain puppy, a breed of domestic dog, photographed in Choussy, France
Common Name: Domestic Dog
Scientific Name: Canis familiaris
Type: Mammals
Diet: Omnivores
Size: Height at the shoulder, 6 to 33 in
Weight: 3 to 175 lbs

Size relative to a 6-ft man

IUCN Red List Status: 
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The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.

lc

Least Concern

At relatively low risk of extinction

nt

Near Threatened

Likely to become vulnerable in the near future

vu

Vulnerable

At high risk of extinction in the wild

en

Endangered

At very high risk of extinction in the wild

cr

Critically Endangered

At extremely high risk of extinction in the wild

ew

Extinct in the Wild

Survives only in captivity

ex

Extinct

No surviving individuals in the wild or in captivity

Data Deficient

Not enough information available to make an assessment

Not Evaluated

No assessment has been made

?
Not Evaluated
lc
nt
vu
en
cr
ew
ex
least concernextinct
Current Population Trend: 

Unknown


Dogs were probably the first tame animals. They have accompanied humans for some 10,000 years. Some scientists assert that all dogs, domestic and wild, share a common ancestor in the small South Asian wolf.

Different Dog Breeds

Today humans have bred hundreds of different domestic dog breeds—some of which could never survive in the wild. Despite their many shapes and sizes all domestic dogs, from Newfoundlands to pugs, are members of the same species—Canis familiaris. Although they have domestic temperaments, these dogs are related to wolves, foxes, and jackals.

Similarities to Wild Relatives

Domestic dogs still share many behaviors with their wild relatives. Both defend their territories and mark them by urinating on trees, rocks, fence posts, and other suitable sites. These scent posts serve notice to other dogs that an animal is occupying its territory.

Many pet dogs also bury bones or favorite toys for future use, just as their wild relatives sometimes bury a kill to secure the meat for later feasts.

Communication

Dogs communicate in several ways. Scent is one method, another is physical appearance. Body position, movement, and facial expression often convey a strong message. Many of these signals are recognizable even to humans, such as the excited tail-wagging of a happy dog or the bared teeth of an angry or threatened animal. Vocally, dogs communicate with a cacophony of sounds including barks, growls, and whines.

Working Dogs

Domestic dogs serve as more than companions; many earn their keep by working hard. Dogs herd livestock, aid hunters, guard homes, and perform police and rescue work. Some special animals even guide the blind—a poignant symbol of the dog's longstanding role as man's best friend. 

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