1902 Encyclopedia > Dog > Behaviour and Psychology of Dogs

(Part 3)

Dog are naturally carnivorous, preferring flesh that is slightly putrid; but they can also live on vegetable food, and in countries where the dog itself is eaten, it is generally thus fed. In drinking it laps with its tongue, and it never perspires, although when heated its tongue hangs from its mouth, and a fluid runs from it.

When about to go to sleep, no matter where, it turns round and round, and scratches the ground with its forepaws as if to form a hollow couch; and in this seemingly senseless action it is no doubt continuing a habit once found useful to its wild progenitors.

Its sense of smells and hearing are exceedingly acute, and many suppose that the remarkable power possessed by the dog, in common with the cat, of finding its way for great distances along unknown roads may be due to the exercise of the former sense.

The differences that obtain between the various breeds of dogs are very great, the skulls, according to Cuvier, differing more from each other than they do in the different species of a natural genus. The molar teeth, which normally consist of 6 pairs above and 7 below, sometimes number 7 pairs above and below, while in the hairless dog of Egypt the teeth are sometimes reduced to a single molar on each, incisors and canines being entirely awanting. Some varieties are six times as long as others, excluding the tail, and the number of vertebrae in the latter organ is also exceedingly various; nor is the number of mammae always uniform, there being 5 on each side in some, and 4 in others, while occasionally the number on the two sides is unequal.

While man has thus bestowed great attention on the physical development of the dog, and availing himself of natural variations has, by careful selection and intercrossing, moulded the dog into an almost infinite variety of forms, he has also, by education, developed its moral and intellectual capabilities, so that the dog may, in this respect, be said to have, written its own limits, kept pace with its master’s advancement; and it is undoubtedly owing to a certain community of feeling existing between dog and man that this domestic animal has, since the earliest times, been regarded as the companion as well as the humble servant of mankind.

There are few human passions not shared in by the dog. It is, like him, subject to anger, jealousy, envy, love, hatred, and grief; it shows gratitude, pride, generosity, and fear. It sympathizes with man in his troubles and there are numerous instances on record of its showing sympathy for the distresses of its own kind. It remembered, and its evidently assisted thereto, as man is, by the association of ideas; that it is not devoid of imagination may be assumed from the fact that it dreams, pursuing in its sleep imaginary game. Its judgment is often singularly correct; while it may almost he said to have a religion, in which man is its god, and his will its rule of conduct, disobedience to which produces an evident feeling of shame and a quiet submission to punishment. It shares with man in awe of the unknown, and the most courageous dog will often tremble at the sudden rustle of a leaf.

While the possession of such faculties has rendered him fit above all other animals for the companionship of man, the physical and intellectual qualities characteristic of the various breeds have been seized upon and developed to their utmost by man, so as to enable him to use the dog for a great variety of purposes; what these are will appear in the following necessarily brief account of the more important breeds of dogs.

Accordingly to Professor Fitzinger, there are at least 189 distinct varieties of the domestic dog, and when it is considered that the origin of many if not of these is uncertain, it is not surprising that considerable differences of opinion should exist as to the most natural mode of grouping them together. Their arrangement into the following six races, founded to a certain extent on the form and development of the ears, probably affords an approximation to a natural classification, viz., WOLF-DOGS, GREYHOUNDS, SPANIELS, HOUNDS, MASTIFFS, and TERRIERS.

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