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What are some facts about dogs?

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Modern domestic dogs are descended from the European wolf. Humans have been selectively breeding dogs only for the last few hundred years, and they are still refining breeds with traits such as superior intelligence and sense of smell. The American Kennel Club recognizes 178 breeds of dog and categorizes them as either sporting, non-sporting, hound, herding, working, terrier, toy or miscellaneous breeds.

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Even the average family pet has an excellent sense of smell. When dogs receive specialized training, they can even locate insect infestations and invasive or threatened animal species. Border control and law enforcement agencies have long used dogs to detect illegal drugs, hidden cash, blood, contraband and illegal immigrants. Military dogs have been used to identify explosive devices.

The average dog probably knows about 160 words, according to psychologist Stanley Coren, who researches dog intelligence. A border collie named Rico has learned more than 200 words for different and unique objects and learns new words as fast as a human toddler can. After studying Rico’s abilities, scientist Julia Fischer at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, concluded that the brain can understand and process words without developing speech. Dogs that appear to understand their human owners conversations probably do.

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