It's a cliche, but dogs are "man's best friend." Archeologists estimate that dogs began accompanied humans 30,000 years ago. Since then, dogs have changed slowly, then quickly, as breeding got more refined. Dogs may now fit beneath a dollar bill and weigh as much as an apple.
Early breeders of Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers sought for the hue to mislead ducks, who could then be picked off easily. This retriever doesn't just lure innocent birds. Webbed feet make them good swimmers, which helps them collect fallen ducks from the lake.
Ancestors of the border collie include Roman herding dogs and Viking spitzes, whose bloodlines were mixed to create the "world's greatest herder." High-energy, border collies need frequent exercise and extensive area to run and play, so they're best for owners with lots of time and space.
The Norwegian elkhound has prowled Europe for for 6,000 years, functioning as a guard dog, herding sheep, and helping Vikings hunt big elk. Once bonded to its owner, the breed is loyal, sweet, and sensitive.
The Sami have spent decades wandering with their reindeer herds in Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle. The Finnish Lapphund, a weatherproof herding dog, walks beside them. It's one of the AKC's most industrious and sympathetic breeds.
The Chinese shar-pei began as an all-purpose peasant's dog more than 2,000 years ago. A government that frowned on pet ownership nearly extinguished the dogs in 1949 during the Communist regime. Mid-1970s Hong Kong breeder saved the devoted guard dog.
Harriers were developed to chase hare in packs in the 13th century. Slightly larger than its beagle cousin, the canines were presumably imported to America by George Washington and his colleagues as sporting dogs. While loving and gentle, the breed may be stubborn and needs strict training.
Evidence of chow chows dates to 206 B.C. These dogs, with their lion-like manes, are easy to house train and have minimal dog odour. These pups are shy with strangers, devoted to loved ones, and don't need much room.