Dog evolution has undeniably been shaped by natural selection – the selection of traits that increase the likelihood of survival and reproductive success. But dog evolution has also undeniably been shaped by artificial selection: selection that results from intentional breeding by humans deciding who breeds with whom and which traits to perpetuate. In fact, Charles Darwin’s interest in evolution wasn’t solely limited to natural selection and wild animals. He was also deeply fascinated by the evolution of domestic animals by artificial selection. Of the domestic animals in Darwin’s life, dogs played a prominent role. It is believed that Darwin observed dogs more closely than any other species.
In this simple activity, students will test their their ability to identify several common dog breeds as they complete a picture-based crossword puzzle. As students look at the different breeds depicted, we encourage you to discuss the terms natural selection and artificial selection while thinking about the extraordinary variation that is present in the modern-day, domestic dog.