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Doberman pinscher breed
Scientific classification

Dogs are mammals that belong to the family Canidae, such as wolves, foxes and coyotes. Usually, the term dog is used to mean the domestic dog (Canis familiaris), which is believed to be descended from a wolf-like ancestor. (Some scientists maintain that the domestic dog is a subspecies of wolf, Canis lupus familiaris.)

There are numerous dog breeds, which evolved during the domesticated dog's relationship with man over the last 100,000 years. Many breeds are the product of a deliberate process of artificial selection. Because of this, some breeds are highly specialized, and there is extraordinary morphological diversity across different breeds. Despite these differences, dogs are able to distinguish dogs from other kinds of animal.

The relationship between dogs and humans is ancient. Dogs serve humans in many ways. There are guard dogs, hunting dogs, and shepherd dogs. Dogs have served as guides for the blind, as commandos, have flown into outer space, and a dog (P.H. Vazak) was even credited as author of an Oscar-nominated screenplay.

Relationships between humans and dogs are often characterized by strong emotional bonds, which run both ways. Consequently, dogs are very popular as pets and companions, independent of any utilitarian considerations. Many dog owners consider having unconditional acceptance from a friend who is always happy to see them to be quite utilitarian, particularly if the dog also leads them to regular exercise. Dogs are quite dependent on human companionship and may suffer poor health without it.

Dog societies are characterized by companionate hierarchy, in which each individual has a rank in society, and in which there is intense loyalty within the group. Dogs thrive in human society because their relationships with humans mimic their natural social patterns. The dog is always aware of its rank vis-a-vis other individuals in the group, and it may be noted that an assertive dog often considers itself the alpha animal, while considering its human owner to be subordinate.

The definition of a breed is a matter of some controversy. Some groups use a definition that ultimately requires extreme in-breeding to qualify. Dogs that are bred in this manner often end up with severe health problems. Other organizations define a breed more loosely, such that an individual may be considered of one breed as long as, say, three of its grandparents were of that breed. These considerations come into play among breeders who enter their dogs in dog show competitions.

For average owners, the importance of the breed is in understanding for what purpose the dog was bred and how that purpose relates to its life as a pet. Herding dogs often get a reputation for nipping, because that is the way they control animals they are herding. Retrievers require lots of regular active running and chasing. Lap dogs love to be in your lap. Dalmatians are coach dogs. As decorative as they are, if they will not have an opportunity for regular exercise, you should choose some other dog.

The Dog is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. It is thought that each animal is associated with certain personality traits.

Table of contents

Keeping your dog healthy

The best way to keep a dog healthy is to let him have plenty of exercise, and not to overfeed him. You should be able to feel only a slight padding of flesh over the dog's ribs and the "waist", just in front of the hind legs, should curve up noticeably from the chest.

Let them have at all times a plentiful supply of clean water. When giving baths, use shampoo made for dogs; human shampoos can strip protective oils from hair and irritate skin. Breeds of dogs with long hair need regular combing out and may need a professional groomer.

Feed your dog a complete and balanced dog food. Dogs have different nutritonal needs than people and some common human foods can kill dogs through poisoning (chocolate) or intestinal blockage (bones, corn on the cob).

Canine distemper is liable to attack dogs from four months to four years old. It prevails most in spring and autumn. The disease generally manifests itself by a dullness of the eye, husky cough, shivering, loss of appetite and energy, and occasional fits. Because distemper is infectious and incurable, affected dogs should be isolated from healthy dogs. Fortunately, an effective vaccine exists and should be administered to all puppies.

Dogs can get worms from eating wild animals, living or dead, and from eating the droppings of other dogs. Watch the stool for signs of worms and bring a stool sample whenever you take the dog to the veterinarian or if you suspect a problem.

To administer medicine to a dog, try wrapping a pill in bacon, cheese or some other treat. Give the dog a treat or two without the pill first and the dog will be more likely to swallow it quickly. Or, if you and the dog trust each other, simply push the pill down the throat past the tongue, clamp the dog's jaws shut, and blow at the dog's nose. It will usually swallow the pill.

Acquiring a dog

You can buy a dog from a reputable dog breeder[?], if you are motivated to adopt by the desire for a specific type of dog or you wish to minimize the uncertainty that often accompanies a shelter dog. You will also pay significantly more for the privilege, but welcoming a well-bred and trained dog into your home is quite a privilege, indeed!

Buying a dog from a pet store is not recommended, as these dogs are often poorly socialized, receive no training, and are commonly weaned from their mothers and siblings too early. If you ever see a dog in a pet store, and want to take them home and care for them, consider the following:

  • Puppies require a great deal of attention and time;
  • Training is a tedious and occasionally frustrating process;
  • Pet stores commonly (some would say "always") stock animals bred in puppy mills or non-reputable breeders, in unsanitary, dangerous and inhumane conditions -- and every puppy mill dog purchase perpetuates the existence of puppy mills.

Many animal welfare charities recommend adopting a dog from an animal shelter, rather than buying one at a store or from a breeder.

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