Every year, International Dog Day falls on the 26th of August. In honour of this very special day, let’s look back at how our furry four-legged companions evolved from feral wolves into our best friends, and explore a few popular dog breeds in Singapore.
The domestic dog
The dog is one of the most popular domestic animals in the world and it is believed that a third of all households worldwide have a dog. This makes the dog the most popular pet on the planet! According to Britannica, dogs have been living with humans for more than 12,000 years. Dogs have lived with us as hunting companions, protectors, objects of scorn or adoration, and friends.
Though dogs come in varied appearances and sizes, all dogs are from the same Canis familiaris species. Dogs are descendants of a species of wolf. Most believed that dogs are descendants of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) but DNA evidence suggests that this may not be the case. New evidence shows that dogs are descendants of the now-extinct Eurasian wolf.
Scientists still do not have a clear understanding of when and how a wild wolf species became a domesticated dog. Most believe the process happened gradually and unfolded over thousands of years. Perhaps the wild wolves started down this path simply by hanging around human camps and eating human scraps. Maybe humans have encouraged wolves to stay nearby actively feeding them. Whatever the case may be, no one knows for sure how and when dogs broke off from their wild ancestors. Eventually, these wolves may have been welcomed into the human home and later, bred to encourage certain traits.
Today, many of the dogs we know and love are the product of selective breeding between individuals with desirable traits, either physical or behavioural. For instance, around 9,500 years ago, humans began breeding dogs that were best able to survive and work in the cold. These dogs would become the family of sled dogs, including breeds such as huskies and malamutes that remain relatively unchanged today.
Similarly, humans bred German shepherds for their ability to herd livestock, Labrador retrievers to help collect ducks and other game felled by hunters, and sausage-shaped Dachshunds for their ability to rush down a burrow after a badger. Dog breeds were created to fill human needs.
Popular dog breeds in Singapore
Let’s look at some of the local favourites.
The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds in Singapore and around the world! Goldies are friendly, sociable and their tolerant attitude makes them great family pets. They are intelligent, loyal and are often seen working with humans for various jobs. Goldies are indeed highly capable working dogs.
Originally bred for the physically demanding job of retrieving felled birds for hunters, the Goldie needs daily exercise: a good run, walk, swim, or a game of fetch. A tired Goldie is a well-behaved Goldie. Bred to retrieve ducks and other birds from lakes and rivers, these dogs are good swimmers and stay comfortable in the water. If you are considering taking your Goldie for a swim, bring along the Pidan Water Wave Ball Dog Toy. This ball can float on the surface of the water. With this ball, you can now play fetch with your dog on the ground or in the water. This will stimulate your Goldie’s instinct to chase, swim and fetch.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Do you know that the Corgi was originally bred to herd cattle, sheep, and horses? They are highly intelligent and easy to train. Great with children and other pets. These short-legged pups are always eager to learn.
Corgis can fit into just about any household, whether it’s an apartment or a large home with a yard. For a small dog, Corgis do have quite a bit of energy and they’ll need plenty of walks and active play sessions.
If you are thinking that since Corgis have medium-length hair and should shed less, you are in for a surprise. Corgis do shed quite a bit. They are year-round shedders. Daily grooming is recommended. At a minimum, you would want to brush your Corgi about 3 times per week with a de-shedding brush like this Essential Dog Natural Bamboo Deshedding Tool for Dogs. This deshedding brush is made for medium to long haired and high shedding dogs like the Corgi.
Poodles are regarded as one of the most intelligent breeds in the world. Because of their intelligence and playful nature, obedience training is essential to keep your Poodle's mind active. They require plenty of physical and mental stimulation. A Poodle who is thinking and learning isn't bored and won't find destructive ways to occupy himself. A bored poodle can get destructive.
Though poodles epitomize a life of leisure and luxury but make no mistake: The breed was created to fetch waterfowl for hunters. Like the Golden, Poodles were bred as working dogs.
One thing to note is that poodles tend to have weepy eyes. Tear stain is common with poodles. To remove the stain, use a gentle water-based wiping solution like this NaturVet Tear Stain Remover Topical Aid for Cats & Dogs. This is a Tylosin free formula that is safe and non-irritating.
The Miniature Schnauzer dog breed has it all in one small package: intelligence, affection, extroverted, and a personality that’s twice as big as their bodies. Schnauzers are energetic and like to be in the centre of the action! These pups have no clue how small they are, and they are likely to talk trash to a much larger dog without any concept of the consequences.
Miniature Schnauzers were originally bred to be ratters and guard dogs on farms. As such, they are excellent watchdogs and are often suspicious of strangers. Protective of home and family, your Schnauzer pup will bark at the slightest noise.
They can be mischievous, and often stubborn. So, always keep your Schnauzer pup on a leash when walking. If he sees something and wants to chase it, he will likely ignore your calls. Though Miniature Schnauzer is considered a low-shedding breed, they are high-maintenance in terms of grooming. A Schnauzer needs to be clipped every five to eight weeks.
Singapore Specials aka The Local Cross Breeds
Whatever you choose to call them, Singapore's animal shelters are sadly overflowing with them. Singapore Special is not a breed; they are descended from the free-breeding village or kampong dogs. These dogs are of mixed breeds, and they come in all sizes, shapes, colours, and patterns. Due to the vast combinations of parent breeds, it can be difficult to determine the ancestry of a mixed breed dog, even for knowledgeable dog observers. Mixed breeds have much more genetic variation than purebreds.
Mixed breed dogs are generally considered healthier than purebred dogs because they draw from a broader gene pool. The natural breeding cycles over many generations meant that these dogs are derived from a more diversified gene pool. According to the theory of the survival of the fittest, defective (weak) genes are naturally weeded out through natural breeding cycles. Throughout the world, mixed breed dogs like the Singapore Special require less veterinary attention across their lifespan.
Due to their mixed gene pool, these dogs boast a diverse personality profile. As such, when you adopt a mixed breed you think in terms of personality, rather than breed. Take the time to find a dog that compliments your personality, and you’ll have endless fun together!
Singapore Specials tend to grow rather big and are disadvantaged in the usual adoption process as they often do not fit the criteria required by the AVA for “HDB-approved” dogs. However, under Project ADORE, Singapore Specials up 55cm in height may be housed in Singapore HDB flats, subject to stringent ownership conditions.
The name “Shih Tzu” means little lion, but there’s nothing fierce about this dog breed. This pooch is a lover, not a fighter. Shih Tzus are bred to be companion dogs. They don't hunt, herd, or guard. They love nothing more than to meet and greet friends and strangers alike. They are affectionate, happy and love nothing more than to follow their humans from room to room. They make great family pets and will get along with other pets.
The flat shape of the Shih Tzu's face makes them susceptible to heat stroke. As such, they should be kept indoors in air-conditioning rooms during hot weather. Be aware as well that this breed tends to wheeze and snore and can be prone to dental problems. Daily toothbrushing may help with better oral health in Shih Tzus. Toothbrushing is considered the gold standard in oral home care but if your dog is not accustomed to toothbrushing, here’s a no-brushing solution - Tropiclean Fresh Breath - No Brushing Advanced Whitening Oral Care Water Additive for Dogs. Just add a little of this oral care water additive to your dog’s drinking water to prevent plaque and tartar buildup.
This is a small dog with a big personality. The Chihuahua is renowned for being the world's smallest dog, but he may well have the world's biggest personality stashed inside that tiny body. They are fun-loving and affectionate, and they like nothing better than to be close to their humans. They will follow their humans around the house. Chihuahuas are intelligent, fast learners, and willful.
It's important when considering the Chihuahua to consider his small size. Chihuahuas are not recommended for homes with young children, simply because of the chance of injury by a young child.
Other important details about the Chihuahua. It is a long-lived breed. So, expect to care for him for up to 18 years. And Chihuahuas are prone to shivering when they are cold, excited, or scared. Bring along a towel, and wrap it around your Chihuahua when you see him shivering, especially when you take him out to a colder, air-conditioned place. Here's one that will not just keep your Chihuahua warm but will even protect him against flea & ticks - Insect Shield Flea & Tick Protection Blanket For Cats & Dogs.
International Dog Day is observed across the globe to put the spotlight on thousands of dogs deprived of a good home and proper care. These dogs can be of any breed - purebred or mixed breed. Let’s celebrate all dogs, irrespective of their shape, size, and breeds. Take time to appreciate the love and value that dogs bring to our daily lives and do your bit for homeless and abused dogs. In your own way and capacity, show your love and appreciation to these loyal creatures.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.