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Taxonomic Rank Name Common Name
Kingdom Animalia Animals
Phylum Chordata Vertebrates
Class Mammalia Mammals
Order Carnivora Carnivores
Family Canidae Dog-like animals
Genus Canis Dogs, wolves, coyotes, jackals
Species Canis lupus familiaris Domestic dog
Different dog breeds
Several different dog breeds

What Are Dogs?

A dog (Canis lupus familiaris), or domestic dog, is a species of medium-sized, omnivorous mammal. Dogs are the only domesticated member of the family Canidae, the family that also includes wolves, foxes, and coyotes.

Characteristics of Dogs

Dogs have muscular, athletic bodies; keen senses of smell and hearing; strong, curved teeth; non-retractable claws; and different coat colors and patterns. They are highly adaptable and can live in a variety of environments and climates. Highly social animals, dogs often form strong bonds with humans and other dogs, and are the world's most popular pet, in front of cats.

Top Facts About Dog for Kids

  • 1. Dogs can "taste" what they smell.

    Dogs are amazing at smelling things. Part of the reason is because they, as well as a few other animals, have a special organ on the roof of their mouth called the vomeronasal organ (VNO) or Jacobson’s organ.

    The VNO is like a second nose that connects to the mouth. When dogs sniff something interesting, they lick their nose and curl their lips. This moves some of the smell to the VNO, where it is sensed by special cells. The VNO then tells the brain what it "tasted." The VNO helps dogs to talk to each other and humans, and to find mates, enemies, food, and home.

  • 2. Archaeologists think the first wolves were tamed before humans even knew how to farm.

    Archaeologists estimate that the first gray wolves were tamed about 15,000 years ago based on evidence found in fossils and DNA analysis across Eurasia, or the land covering all of Europe and Asia. This is about 3,000 years before humans learned agriculture. Even though we often associate dogs with ancient civilizations, it’s likely that humans didn’t breed dogs for specific purposes until about 10,000 years later.

  • 3. A St. Bernard holds the title for heaviest dog of all time.

    While the average adult domestic dog typically has a mass of about 15 kg (33 lbs), there have been some truly massive canines recorded in history. In fact, the unofficial title for heaviest dog ever recorded goes to a St. Bernard named Benedictine. Benedictine weighed in at a whopping 167 kg (368 lbs), which is just over 11 times the mass of an average domestic dog.

  • 4. Woof! Mung! Did you know that dog sounds are represented differently in different languages?

    Language Sounds like...
    English Woof
    Estonian Auh
    French Ouaf
    German Wau
    Italian Bau
    Language Sounds Like...
    Japanese Wan
    Korean Mung
    Russian Gav
    Spanish Guau
    Swedish Voff

  • 5. The number of dog breeds depends on who you ask, with different sources saying anywhere from the 200s to 400s.

    The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), which is the world’s largest registry of dog pedigrees, or dog breeding history, recognizes 360 different breeds. That being said, the American Kennel Club (AKC) only recognizes 197 breeds and the largest British organization, the Kennel Club (KC), only recognizes 218 different breeds. Lastly, Encyclopedia Britannica claims that only around 200-300 breeds exist.