Creating Canine Companions


Over the weekend I watched a documentary called Science of Dogs. The documentary discussed how there is greater physical and behavioral variety among dogs than any other species. In the 19th century people began to breed dogs to satisfy certain desired traits in a canine companion- the ultimate selective breeding experiment.  One of the interesting breeds the film focused on was the Dogo Argentino (shown in picture!).  These dogs were specifically created to hunt crop-destroying wild boars.  The dogs are aggressive, fearless, and strong.  The breeders mixed a number of different breeds for their desirable traits, such as Pointers for a good sense of smell, Great Danes for size, Mastiffs for aggression, and Pyrenees for a white coat that can be seen in the brush. This genetic, behavioral, and physical manipulation made me realize how different breeds of dogs have reliable, unique, and inheritable behavioral traits.  This made me wonder- how do the brains of different dog breeds differ? Does a Dogo Argentino have a smaller amygdala than other breeds, reducing fear?

Furthermore, apparently dogs have many similar psychological disorders as humans.  For example, certain breeds are more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder. The documentary showed a dog with PTSD who could not stop chasing his own tail.  He would literally chase his tail for hours until he either vomited or went unconscious.  What can we learn from these animals? How can we help them with psychological disorders? Do the same medications that are effective treatments for human psychological disorders work in dogs? Do we have an ethical obligation to aid animals with psychological disorders because they cannot help themselves?


Check out the documentary on Netflixs!

3 thoughts on “Creating Canine Companions

  1. This is a great article that makes me think about my dog back home. It is very interesting to watch him and see his reactions to things in his life and his very real emotions that result. I have always wondered how the brains of dogs work. While they can not always understand what you say it is very interesting to see how they accurately react to physical signals and tone in people’s voices. This suggests that they have some kind of emotional center similar to the social tendencies of humans. It is also interesting how breeding different kinds of dogs can result in such different physical and mental traits of offspring. This could be related to when certain people have kids and their children often display similar attributes to their parents. Regarding the psychological disorders dogs can acquire, I think this is a very sad fact. Just the idea let alone having to see any dog with these kinds of problems is hard to stomach and finding ways to treat them is important and if possible should be done to help them.


  2. I love dogs and it’s always so sad to see them struggling with any sort of psychological disorder because they cannot convey their thoughts and emotions like humans can. I have always wondered what goes on in the minds of my dogs because they always seem to be so in tune with human emotions, yet we can never really seem to communicate with them efficiently. The idea of breeding dogs to attain certain physical, and mental attributes is an interesting one and I’m sure it would result in dogs with specialized abilities in a variety of different areas.


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