Why do dogs ___ ?

Google has a feature called auto-complete where the search oracle will attempt to guess what you’re searching for based upon what previous users have queried.  It provides a fascinating look into what’s on people’s minds.  I ran a few dog breeds through the search to see what people are asking about their pets and came up with some humorous results.  Sadly, the answer to almost all the questions, from “why do beagles howl?” to “why do mutts live longer?” is they were bred to, intentionally or not.

Why do Beagles bay?They were bred to as part of the pack hunting behavior during mounted hunts. It allows the hunters to know when the dogs are on a scent trail and to hear where they are when they run out of sight.

Why do Border Collies stare?  They were bred to as part of their herding behavior. It keeps the stock on edge and more likely to be moved by the dogs.

Why do Chihuahuas shake?  They are bred so small that their surface area to body mass ratio is too large allow them to effectively regulate their body temperature.  Their internal temperature drops too low causing the automatic shiver mechanism to try and warm them up.

Why do Cocker Spaniels pee?  Cocker Spaniels are a breed with numerous known inherited disorders. Poor jaw alignment, umbilical hernia, cherry eye, ectropion, corneal dermoid cyst, skin and ear problems, hip dysplasia, poor temperament, hernia, factor X deficiency, anasarca, cleft lip, cataracts, glaucoma, anemia, entropion, luxated patella, intervertebral disc disease, hypothyroidism to name a few.  Incontinence can be caused by several of these diseases or structural and hormonal problems that don’t have a named disease associated with them.  Hypothyroidism is linked with poor bladder control, disc disease can lead to poor muscle tone, and even temperament issues make dogs more likely to urinate at inappropriate times.

Why do Collies have long noses?  Collies have long noses because they were bred to a fashion which prized this look, it is unlikely that Borzoi was bred in to achieve this as no evidence exists to document this mix and the look was already in development as a fad years before the purported Borzoi influence.

Why do German Shepherds walk funny?  German Shepherds walk funny because show breeders bred them to have horrible structure in their spines, hips, and rear legs to accentuate the visual impression of a split stance when the dog is stacked in the show ring.  It serves no positive functional purpose and has become so pronounced that the dogs clearly suffer disability for this look.

Why do Golden Retrievers eat grass? While this is not a behavior that humans have ever intentionally bred for, it’s certainly a behavior that nature has selected for.  Dogs eat grass (or poop, for that matter) because it tastes good, provides a bit of nutrition and bulk, and it’s convenient and usually abundant.

Why do Great Danes die early?  Great Danes were bred to an extreme size without selective pressure from nature to ensure that they were healthy.  They suffer from this distortion with bone problems of all sorts as well as gastrointestinal issues.  Plus, a smattering of other inbred disease that isn’t intentional, per se, and you’ve got a breed that doesn’t live very long.

Why do Huskies have blue eyes?  Unlike some other breeds where blue and mixed eye colors are discouraged or considered faults by the show standard, no such prohibition exists in the Husky.  Thus, natural variations in genetics (both coat color and eye color) exist.  Split eye colors happen when a modifying gene, like the merle gene, has variable expression, meaning that it modifies the color of come cells and not others.  Sometimes you’ll see multiple colors in the same iris.

Why do Labradoodles smell bad?  It’s either because they have an oily skin and coat from their Poodle ancestry or because they have food allergies, which have a genetic component to their expression.

Why do Labradors lick so much? Labradors lick so much for several reasons: they like the taste of what they’re licking like your lotion or the salt on your skin, what they’re licking smells funny like the yeast colonies they get in their paws when they have allergies (dorito toes), they are showing affection or submission, or they are soothing themselves with the calming endorphins that are released when they lick.

Why do Mutts live longer? Mutts live longer because purebred dogs are a mess with recessive diseases.  A mutt is more likely to be a carrier of disease versus being affected by disease, and often being a carrier is harmless.  Mutts are also more likely to have a diversity of MHC genes which govern their immune systems, which help them fight off everything from cancer to viruses.  Mutts are also less likely to have distortions in size or shape which lead to health problems.

Why do Pitbulls attack? Pittbulls attack because they were bred to.  The breed was designed to handle large bulls in tight quarters, and some people still breed them for “gameness” against other dogs.  Trying to breed out this cluster of behaviors is difficult while not outcrossing to non-game breeds and maintaining the structure and musculature of the breed.

Why do Poodles’ eyes run? Poodles have a genetic predisposition to runny and crusty eyes that is also seen in the miniature and mix varieties.  It’s likely caused by a malformation of the gland and/or ducts around the eye or a susceptibility of those tissues to scar from infection.

Why do Pugs snort? Pugs snort because people have breed them to be bracycephalic, to have a flat head.  This is a visual fad that has no beneficial purpose, and the extreme shortening of the muzzle creates dysfunction in breathing and eating as the nose, sinuses, and palate are malformed.

Why do Schnauzer’s have beards?There are many breeds capable of growing beards, but the Schnauzers are groomed to accentuate this feature.

Why do Shih Tzus eat their poop? You are what you eat? Actually, like grass, poop is abundant, tastes good, and perhaps even provides a little nutrition.  Puppies might learn this behavior from their mothers who often clean up after them (again, for nutrition or possibly to avoid predators sniffing out the pups).  Most food is only partially digested on the first pass and so poop probably smells and tastes in some way similar to first time through foods.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.