The Science of Dogs was great. It was great because I love dogs and I love watching documentaries where I get to look at dogs do dog things. But the substance behind the fluff (pun intended) was also kind of mind-blowing, and that further adds to its greatness.
For one, I’ve certainly thought about just how nuts the insane variety of currently existing dog breeds is before, but I didn’t know that the dog is the most genetically diverse animal species on the planet. That both surprised me and made a lot of sense upon remembering the former. And to know that this is true directly because of human intervention, the late 19th century’s sudden obsession with dog breeding, was honestly kind of shocking. We’ve cross bred dogs to determine every aspect of their nature, from physical appearance and biological capabilities, to “breeding loyalty”, or at the very least, breeding human dependancy. The last twenty minutes or so of the documentary are focused on examining the behavioral differences between the dog and its primal, still living ancestor, the wolf. Various simples tests run between the two species show that, while the wolf is perfectly capable of showing affection towards its human handlers, it does not inherently seek out humans in order to operate. A wolf will soldier on, singleminded and independent, regardless of human intervention. Dogs on the other hand, when faced with simple tests they could not solve, always turned to their human handlers for input after failing to do so. I honestly had never considered that man’s best friend is friend to man because we’ve made that a permanent and inherent part of their nature.
An exercise in contrast.
And this very nature, its creation by human hands, really served to put the pure breeds versus mutts debate into perspective for me. I have a purebred chihuahua and I already had to drop 700 dollars for surgery to remove a baby fist sized kidney stone from his bladder, so I’ve seen the inherent genetic risks that come with pure breeding first hand. On the one hand, highly specific dog breeding has given us dogs that can sniff out bombs better than any machine. On the other, a Pug’s skull is so shallow that a simple sneeze can cause its eyeballs to pop out of their sockets, so there is most definitely an argument to be had here.
As this becomes a hotter topic, it’ll be interesting to see if any sort of restrictions eventually come into play with regards to aggressively specific dog breeding. In a few years time, playing God with canines might be seen for what it really is, and really means, for our beloved house pets.