It is said that man's best friend is the dog. Obedient, loyal, patient and smart, dogs are ideal pets. Throughout the years, dogs have served humans, becoming hunting aides, seeing-eye dogs for the blind, house guards, K-9 police dogs, and even as simple as keeping man company and entertained.

Origins of the Dog

Dogs belong to the same species as wolves, which explains the resemblance of the two in terms of physical appearance and hunting abilities.

Domesticated dogs have been around for 14,000 years, but studies of late show that they have probably existed as far as 150,000 years ago. The first breed of dogs was similar to dingoes. Now, there are more than 800 breeds of dogs, characteristics varying by size, descent, fur colour and texture, and function.

Dogs are commonly classified according to function. Certain breeds are sporting or hunting dogs like Hounds, utility dogs like Collies, and some are toy dogs like Chihuahuas.

Dog Care

Dogs are very much dependent on its master's care. Apart from the basic needs of a dog, they also need to be bathed regularly and need to be taken to the veterinary for regular check-ups and vaccines against viruses.

Some diseases that dogs should be protected from are rabies canine parvovirus , and canine distemper . Normally, dogs are inoculated with the virus as early as 3 months because any of the three viruses can easily weaken a puppy's defences dramatically and even lead to death. So it is advised to get pups with complete shots.

Dogs are also susceptible to parasites. Heartworms are contracted by mixing human and canine saliva which normally occurs when dogs kiss their masters as a sign of affection. Heartworms may be prevented by through preventive medication.

Dog nutrition is also very important in ensuring the health of these canine companions. They are better fed with nutritionally complete food – dog food. However, dogs can very well survive on human food for as long as it is clean, nutritionally well-balanced, and void of chemical additives like monosodium glutamate, a flavour enhancer. Dog owners must also keep chocolates or cocoa, grapes, raisins, onions and Macadamia nuts out of their diet as well as these contain substances lethal to dogs.

Understanding your dog

Dogs are very sensitive pets in terms of senses and sensing emotions.

It is a known fact that dogs have a keen sense of smell. This is attributed to the millions of smell receptors on their noses. This is why dogs are used in sniffing out illegal drugs, locating bombs in mine fields and hunting.

A dog's hearing is another characteristic which makes dogs good hunters. While humans can hear sounds with in 16 to 20 hertz for low sounds, dogs can make out sounds as low as 20 to 70 hertz and sounds as high as 100 kilo hertz. In fact they also can easily associate certain sounds to certain beings or objects. This is why dogs do not bark when their owners are approaching even if behind a door and why dogs bark and get jumpy with unfamiliar sounds.

Perhaps the only sense that dogs seem to lack in is sight. They are in actual fact colour blind and their lenses flatter than that of humans. Thus their vision lacks detail.

But probably the best sense that dogs is their sensitivity to its human companions.

Aside from them being very intelligent creatures, they can sense mood changes in humans. A human's emotions also affect its dog's emotions. They seem to understand the feeling of their human companions and know how to act around them given the general emotions. Because of their silent understanding, they are even sometimes considered to be better companions than humans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Up to how long can dogs live?
A dog's life will vary from breed to breed. The smaller they are, they longer their lives are.

How can I compute for a dog's age?
A one-year old small dog's is actually 15 years old. To compute for a small dog's age, just keep adding 4 years to every year to get the actual age of a small dog.

For large breed dogs, in their first (human) year, they are already 15 dog years. One human year is equivalent to 7 dog years after the first year.

Are dogs colour-blind?
Yes they are colour-blind and thus see in only black and white.

Is it safe to feed dogs with chocolates?
Dogs should not be fed with chocolates or food containing cocoa as these are poisonous to them.

Are big dogs better than small dogs as pets?
Size does matter in dog care. Large dogs must have good running space and will require more food and bigger sleeping quarters. Otherwise, it is just a matter of preference.

How many dog breeds are there?
To date, there are around 800 dog breeds.