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Domestic dogs have been selectively bred for millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes. Modern dog breeds show more variation in size, appearance, and behavior than any other domestic animal. Nevertheless, their morphology is based on that of their wild ancestors, gray wolves. Dogs are predators and scavengers, and like many other predatory mammals, the dog has powerful muscles, fused wrist bones, a cardiovascular system that supports both sprinting and endurance, and teeth for catching and tearing. Dogs are highly variable in height and weight. The smallest known adult dog was a Yorkshire Terrier, that stood only 6.3 cm (2.5 in) at the shoulder, 9.5 cm (3.75 in) in length along the head-and-body, and weighed only 113 grams (4 ounces). The largest known dog was an English Mastiff which weighed 155.6 kg (343 lbs) and was 250 cm (8.2 feet) from the snout to the tail. The tallest dog is a Great Dane that stands 106.7 cm (42.2 in) at the shoulder.

Like most mammals, dogs are dichromats and have color vision equivalent to red-green color blindness in humans (deuteranopia).

The dog's visual system has evolved to aid proficient hunting. While a dog's visual acuity is poor (that of a poodle's has been estimated to translate to a Snellen rating of 20/75, their visual discrimination for moving objects is very high; dogs have been shown to be able to discriminate between humans (e;g. identifying their owner) from distances up to a mile. As crepuscular hunters, dogs often rely on their vision in low light situations: they have very large pupils, a high density of rods in the fovea, an increased flicker rate, and a tapetum lucidum. The tapetum is a reflective surface behind the retina that reflects light back to give the photoreceptors a second chance to catch the photons.

The eyes of different breeds of dogs have different shapes, dimensions, and retina configurations. Many long-nosed breeds have a "visual streak" a wide foveal region that runs across the width of the retina and gives them a very wide field of excellent vision. Some long-muzzled breeds, particularly the sighthounds, have a field of vision up to 270 (compared to 180 for humans). Short-nosed breeds, on the other hand, have an "area centralis": a central patch with up to three times the density of nerve endings as the visual streak, giving them detailed sight much more like a human's. Some broad-headed breeds with short noses have a field of vision similar to that of humans. Most breeds have good vision, but some show a genetic predisposition for myopia such as Rottweilers, where one out of every two has been found to be myopic.

The frequency range of dog hearing is approximately 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz, which means that dogs can detect sounds far beyond the upper limit of the human auditory spectrum. Additionally, dogs have ear mobility which allows them to rapidly pinpoint the exact location of a sound. Eighteen or more muscles can tilt, rotate, raise, or lower a dog's ear. A dog can identify a sound's location much faster than a human can, as well as hear sounds at four times the distance.

The highly sensitive nose of a dog.While the human brain is dominated by a large visual cortex, the dog brain is dominated by an olfactory cortex. The olfactory bulb in dogs is roughly forty times bigger than the olfactory bulb in humans, relative to total brain size, with 125 to 220 million smell-sensitive receptors. The bloodhound exceeds this standard with nearly 300 million receptors. Dogs can discriminate odors at concentrations nearly 100 million times lower than humans can. The wet nose is essential for determining the direction of the air current containing the smell. Cold receptors in the skin are sensitive to the cooling of the skin by evaporation of the moisture by air currents.

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