Episode 262 – Dog: Man’s Best Friend

“…and today we’re talking about a canis comrade, but more on that later.”

There are many symbiotic relationships in nature, but there is no closer interspecies bond than the one found between humanity and their dogs. Canines and humans have been close companions for so long that we’ve influenced the course of dog adaptation and development. While we’ve changed dogs, dogs have also changed us. The title “man’s best friend” is more than appropriate in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • Dogs are the most variable mammal on Earth with around 450 globally recognized breeds. They are also the most abundant species of carnivore on Earth
  • We started specifically breeding dogs in the 19th century and now we have tons. So most of the breeds we have today come from a much smaller variety 200 years ago.
  • So, even though they’re all the same species, their skull, body size, limb proportions, fur features, color, and temperament have all been bred out into these various breeds – not even subspecies!
  • Did you know that all dogs have an identical skeletal structure outside of the bones in their tails?
  • Other than that, the only thing that really connects them visually is that they have four legs, a tail of some sort, and they’re covered in fur.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We do have a new Measure Up intro!

Husky Weight

  • 35 to 60 lbs
  • How many huskies go into the weight of a M2 machine gun?
  • Hint: In World War II, Americans used dogs to carry machine guns on their backs. It was a heavy burden, but if those dogs worked for the Soviets, they would be trained to carry bombs to tanks and then explode.
  • About 1.5. The machine gun was around 84 lbs. 

Husky Length

  • 30-34.5 inches (76-88 cm)
  • How many huskies go into the length of the Iditarod race?
  • Hint: The Iditarod is a famous dog sledding race through the Alaskan wilderness. In recent years, it has come under controversy because some mushers push their dogs to the point of exhaustion and death. On the other hand, sled dogs have an in-born need to pull.
  • 1,836,522 huskies. The Iditarod is around 1,000 miles.

Fast Facts


Friggin everywhere. In your house, probably. Dogs have been with humans for thousands of years. You’re most likely rarely more than 100 feet from a dog if you live in a city or suburb.


  • Whipped cream, poop, and shoes.
  • Omnivorous – dog food is made up of starch, grain, and meat which they need since they can’t produce vitamin D and need to get it through animal flesh.


  • Whoosagooboi 

Apparently dogs have been domesticated by humans since before agriculture.

The most widespread form of interspecies bonding happens between humans and dogs

Previously, owning a dog as just a pet was more of a rich person thing. Since the idea of taking care of and feeding something that didn’t actively contribute to the household isn’t something your average bubonic peasant was interested in.

But they’re not completely useless like a snake or a fish, they act as guards, alarms, sheep herders, sled pullers, hunting companions, drug sniffers, blind guides, basketball players, detectives, rappers, bounty hunters, etc.

Around 77.5 million American own dogs in 40% of American households. And 67% of dog owners own one dog, 25% own two, and 9% own more than two (equals 101%).

Dogs are also eaten as food in some East Asian countries such as China, Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

There is so much more that can be said about dogs.

Major Fact: Man’s Best Friends

Dogs are closely related to wolves and they share a common ancestor. Several dog breeds are considered very old and close to the original form of the canis familiaris species, including huskies and the Greenland sled dog. 

Over the years, dogs’ proximity to humans allowed them to develop interesting abilities over other animals. Wolves are better candidates for domestication over other animals, because of their social hierarchy, and their ability to initiate social interaction, even with other species. 

Dogs have an enzyme that wolves and other predators don’t have, which allows them to digest starch. It’s similar to human digestive enzymes that developed in people that adopted agriculture as a major means of food supply. 

Dogs can read human body language, and can understand gesturing and pointing. Even chimpanzees need specific training to understand human hand gestures. 

They can also read facial expressions. Apparently intense emotions cause asymmetrical facial expressions in which the right side is more expressive than the left, and humans unconsciously focus on the right side of each other’s faces to read emotions. Dogs also focus on the right side of a human’s face to read emotions, but they don’t even do that when looking at each other.

Dogs also engage in deception with humans, which suggests they are able to read humans well enough to trick them. In order to lie, you need awareness of the thoughts of another person. A lie is putting a false thought in someone’s head. 

Humans like dogs. A study found that both humans and their dogs have elevated oxytocin levels when they touch or look at one another. Oxytocin is a reward chemical that is tied to socialization. But wouldn’t any cute animal raise oxytocin in humans? Nope! The study also looked at wolves raised by humans and found that neither the wolves or their handlers had elevated oxytocin levels. 

We know dogs can learn words, which is why we often spell out words like T-R-E-A-T, if we don’t want them to get too excited. But how many words can they understand and how well can they put them together?

Recently, Bunny the talking dog has stirred up debate on that topic. She is said to know and use more than 90 words by pressing buttons with words on them, including complex concepts like “what” and “why.” But some suggest that Bunny doesn’t actually have a larger vocabulary than a two year old. Rather than assigning words to their meaning, she might be assigning buttons and sounds to the way her human owners react to them.

Ending: So sit, shake, lie down, and deceive others to get the good scritches like dogs here in LDT.