Many of us own dogs. Some dogs represent the class of “junk-yardian” while on the other end of the canine continuum we find dogs of presumed royalty, pampered and protected, fearing even the smallest of viruses and parasites might spoil their bloodlines and genetic purity.

Regardless of whether you have the dog you’d rather kiss than your spouse, or one destined for the Westminster Kennel Club, most of us will do just about anything we can to keep the German shepherd a German shepherd and a Dandie Dinmont Terrier a … well, whatever it is.

Canines are an unusual species of animal. I read somewhere once that dogs are the only species in which a breeder can breed in or out certain traits or characteristics within five generations. Some of those traits can, and usually do, involve behavior as well as appearance. We know that certain breeds of dogs are used for specific purposes, i.e. guard/attack dogs, running dogs, good-natured (pets), hunting, show dogs, etc.

Canines have other characteristics we don’t always think about. Canine is a species. A Rottweiler is a breed of canine species. All breeds can interbreed and produce viable offspring (capable of reproducing). All canines, like a poodle and a hyena, can breed and produce viable offspring. A wild canine (coyote/wolf) can and does breed with a domestic canine.

With too many wild canines being forced into perhaps undesirable habitat (i.e. our backyards), attempting to “coexist” with too many domestic canines, cross breeding becomes more and more likely as well as seriously problematic. Hybrid mixes of wild and domestic canines not only threaten your beloved pets’ genetic bloodlines, but so too there is a threat to the bloodlines of intended wild canines. With this intermixing, behavior of the offspring can pose serious unwanted attributes, as well as a destruction of the wild species as a whole.

If you are following me, and if you own a kennel full of chocolate Labrador Retrievers, the last thing you probably would like to see is the neighbor’s “Heinz 57” junkyard dog caught up in your kennel while your prize Lassie is in heat.

Many who love their dogs also love wolves, coyotes, dingoes, jackals, hyenas. In the wild, each of these species serves some sort of purpose, within our modern ecosystems. If we mix one of those chocolate Labs with a coyote, what remains? Keep in mind that a free-roaming pit bull can wander into the forest and find a willing partner in a female coyote that will result in offspring with probably a behavior pattern different from the coyote we should be accustomed to.

This changing behavior pattern can have widespread negative effects in the habitat the wild canines live in. How does this change in behavior modify the entire ecosystem? We don’t know for sure, but are beginning to find out. If we are looking to protect wild canines, shouldn’t we, like our own pets, do our best to isolate the breeds/species, which may require limiting their habitat?

In our own selfishness, we have come to demand that wildlife should be viewed from the comfort of our living rooms while gazing out the picture window, or from the comfort of our climate-controlled automobiles. Are such demands putting those species we claim to want to protect in danger of their destruction through cross breeding and changing characteristics?

Think about it for a minute. If you want to honestly do as much as is sensible to protect a species, then those species created to exist apart from human-settled landscapes should be kept that way in order to sustain the creature in as natural a condition as is practical.

Without purposeful planning and ideas, soon our forests will be threatened with not only the loss of pure species of wolves and coyotes, but we’ll realize an uncontrolled population of wild Heinz 57 canines good for little except the spread of disease.

No more than we want all dogs to look like mutts, we shouldn’t expect differently when it comes to wild species.

And on a final note. Turning loose to the wild your unwanted dogs contributes to the threat of wild canine species.

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