Are Dogs the Most Multi-Talented Species?

As the first domesticated animals, dogs have earned their nickname of “man’s best friend.” Dogs have been human companions for at least 20,000 years, and some evidence suggests canines may have been domesticated as early as 40,000 years ago.

Working 9 to 5

Throughout history, dogs have been valued for more than just their companionship. They’ve long been used for a variety of jobs, like herding livestock, search and rescue missions, and scent detection.

Over time, some dogs have been trained to take on highly specialized positions. For the past few decades, the Colombian Air Force has used dogs to help them find explosives, drugs, and other contraband. Since rocky terrain makes many remote locations in the country difficult to reach, the Colombian Air Force trained dogs to skydive so they can come along for the job.

Some dogs have even snagged jobs at major corporations. Pocket beagle Captain Ron helps protect sea turtles as a member of Disney’s Conservation Team. He’s trained to sniff out eggs in fresh sea turtle nests, which cut egg-finding times from 30 minutes to about 30 seconds. After Captain Ron detects a nest, it’s marked so the eggs remain undisturbed on the busy Florida beaches.

A Hollywood star

In the 1920s, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars was Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd who was rescued from wartime France in 1918 by a US airman. Rin Tin Tin, or “Rinty,” appeared in 27 films from 1922-1931.

Rinty was such a superstar, he almost received the first ever Academy Award for best actor. In 1929, Rin Tin Tin received the most votes for best actor in first-round voting. But the head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thought giving the first award to a dog would send the wrong message, so the Academy held a second round of voting with human contenders only.

Even though Rin Tin Tin didn’t get his Oscar, he has since been immortalized as Hollywood royalty. Rin Tin Tin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame when it was established in 1960.

Part of the family

The United States is home to over 75 million pet dogs, more than any other country in the world. And many Americans view their dogs as an important part of the family. Of dog-owners surveyed by the American Kennel Club, 45% said their dogs sleep in their bed and 70% said they sign their dog’s name on holiday cards.

And those aren’t the only interesting statistics the American Kennel Club tracks. Each year, they release a list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S., and the Labrador Retriever has taken the top spot for 29 years in a row. The other breeds that rounded out the top five in 2019 were German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, French Bulldogs, and Bulldogs.

On the other hand, sitting at the very bottom of the list in 193rd place is the English Foxhound. English Foxhounds are gentle and social, but their primal instinct for pursuit makes them a high-energy breed. Because of this, they’re rarely seen as house pets and aren’t recommended for city or apartment living as their space will be too confined.

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