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The dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a domesticated subspecies of the Gray Wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The domestic dog has been one of the most widely kept working and companion animals in human history. Amongst canine enthusiasts, the word "dog" may also mean the male of a canine species, as opposed to the word "bitch."

The domestication of the gray wolf took place in a handful of events roughly 15,000 years ago in central Asia.[citation needed] The dog quickly became ubiquitous across culture in all parts of the world, and was extremely valuable to early human settlements. For instance, it is believed that the successful emigration across the Bering Strait might not have been possible without sled dogs. Dogs perform many roles for people, such as hunting, herding, protection, and, more recently, assisting handicapped individuals. Currently, there are estimated to be 400 million dogs in the world.

Over the 15,000 year span that the dog had been domesticated, it diverged into only a handful of landraces, groups of similar animals whose morphology and behavior have been shaped by environmental factors and functional roles. As the modern understanding of genetics developed, humans began to intentionally breed dogs for a wide range of specific traits. Through this process, the dog has developed into hundreds of varied breeds, and shows more behavioral and morphological variation than any other land mammal. For example, height measured to the withers ranges from a few inches in the Chihuahua to a few feet in the Irish Wolfhound; color varies from white through grays (usually called "blue'") to black, and browns from light (tan) to dark ("red" or "chocolate") in a wide variation of patterns; coats can be short or long, coarse-haired to wool-like, straight, curly, or smooth. It is common for most breeds to shed this coat, but non-shedding breeds are also popular.

Dog is the common use term that refers to members of the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris. The term is sometimes used to refer to a wider range of species: it can be used to refer to any mammal belonging to the family Canidae, which includes wolves, foxes, jackals, and coyotes; it can be used to refer to the subfamily of Caninae, or the genus Canis, also often called the "true dogs". Some members of the family have "dog" in their common names, such as the Raccoon Dog and the African Wild Dog. A few animals have "dog" in their common names but are not canids, such as the prairie dog and the dog fish.

The English word dog comes from Middle English dogge, from Old English docga, a "powerful dog breed". The term may derive from Proto-Germanic dukkon, represented in Old English finger-docce ("finger-muscle"). The word also shows the familiar petname diminutive -ga also seen in frogga "frog", picga "pig", stagga "stag", wicga "beetle, worm", among others. Due to the archaic structure of the word, the term dog may ultimately derive from the earliest layer of Proto-Indo-European vocabulary, reflecting the role of the dog as the earliest domesticated animal.

Dog ousted traditional English hound by the 16th century, before which time it had the meaning of "dog" rather than modern "hunting dog", as in other Germanic languages it is cognate to German Hund, Dutch hond, common Scandinavian hund, and Icelandic hundur. Hound itself is derived from the Proto-Indo-European kwon- "dog", found in Welsh ci (plural cwn), Latin canis, Greek kon, Lithuanian u, just to name a few.

In breeding circles, a male canine is referred to as a dog, while a female is called a bitch. A group of offspring is a litter. The father of a litter is called the sire, and the mother is called the dam. Offspring are generally called pups or puppies until they are about a year old. The process of birth is whelping.

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