When it comes to our canine companions, there’s a lot of information floating around out there. But what’s a myth and what is actually fact? Read on for some things that may surprise you!
1. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Myth: Not only can you teach an old dog new tricks, but he may even learn quicker than a feisty younger pup. Older dogs are usually calmer, more settled in their ways, welcome the extra attention, and very much want to please you. So grab some treats and teach aging Fido a new trick or two.
2. A dogs mouth is cleaner than a humans mouth.
Myth: Um … no. It’s true that we humans don’t generally catch stuff from getting drowned in doggy kisses, but it’s not because Fido doesn’t have a mouth full of germs (because he does). Dogs have about 600 various bacterial strains in their mouths (as do we humans). The difference is that most canine germs are not compatible with humans, so we normally don’t get sick from them. Notice that I said most — not all. There are definitely some germs that can, and do, pass from dogs to humans, which can range from very mild to severe. Keep this in mind, especially if anyone in your household has a compromised immune system.
3. My dog’s nose is dry so he must be sick.
Myth: Just because your pooch has a warm, dry nose doesn’t mean he’s sick. In fact, you’ll see the temperature and moisture level change throughout the day. For example, you may notice your dog’s nose is dryer when he first wakes up from a nap. That’s partly due to the drop in body temperature, and partly because he has not been licking it while he was asleep. A few other reasons your dog’s nose may be dry: he may be dehydrated or he may have a little sunburn.
The same holds true about a cool, moist nose. It’s not a total measure of health. Moist noses could mean your dog is putting his nose to good use (because when dogs follow a specific scent, their nose develops a thin layer of moist mucus) or it could possibly be runny from respiratory illness.
4. A wagging tail means a happy dog.
Myth: A wagging tail can have many meanings and not all of them are friendly. Dogs communicate with their tails. Positioning, postures, and facial expressions can give you big clues as to your pup’s current state of mind. I’ve written an entire article on the subject — click here to check it out!
5. Every year in a dog’s life is equal to seven human years.
Myth: If only it were that simple! But, of course, it’s not. Dogs do age much quicker than humans, but not at the very familiar 1:7 ratio. Where this rule came from is unknown, but it did originate sometime in the 1950s. At that time the average canine lived for approximately 10 years and the average human for 70 years—hence: 1:7.
During a dog’s first year of life, he actually ages more than twice that number. Check out this AKC infographic to see how the researchers break down canine aging. You’ll see that the size of a dog plays a big part in the aging process. Click here to read it.
6. Dogs are colorblind and can only see black and white.
Myth: No, dogs are not colorblind. Although they don’t see the rainbow in the same vibrant way we do, they do see it in color. Being able to visualize color all comes down to specialized cells in the eyes called cones. Humans and canines both have cones, but we humans have lots more of them. To see how your dog sees color check out my article! You’ll find a graphic there so you can see exactly how Fido sees color.
7. Dogs are as smart as a 2-year-old toddler.
Fact: Believe it or not, this is actually true. Well, Fido might not be ready to sign up for preschool, but studies have proven that he can learn as many words as a toddler. Take the time to work with your pooch and he might surprise you … a lot! Check out my article titled, “How Many Words Can A Dog Understand”. According to psychologist Stanley Coren,
“The average dog can learn 165 words and dogs in the top 20 percent of dog intelligence can learn 250 words.”
8. Dogs sleep curled up in a ball to keep their organs safe.
Fact: Curling up in a ball to tuck in for a good night’s sleep is actually a throwback to their wild ancestors. It was their way of staying safe and protecting themselves from predators. Sleeping curled up protects vital organs, keeps Fido warm, snuggly, and feeling safe. Find out more about dog sleeping positions here!
9. Puppies are born blind and deaf.
Fact: Yep, puppies are actually born blind and deaf. Their eyes are not fully developed at birth and remain tightly closed. It’s the same with their ear canals. A puppy’s ear canals and eyes will open in approximately two to three weeks. Meanwhile, these little cuties have to maneuver around purely by scent. They rely solely on their noses to find their mama so they can nurse and snuggle.
10. No two dogs have the same nose print.
Fact: I’m unique, you’re unique, and Fido is unique too! That’s right! Just like no two humans have the same fingerprints, there are no two dogs that have the same nose prints. And that’s a fact!
11. A dog can suffer foot damage if his nails are kept too long.
Fact. If you hear your dog’s nails tapping on the floor when he walks then it’s definitely time to grab the clippers and trim those nails. When a dog’s nails tap on hard surfaces, it pushes their nails back up into their nail beds, which can be extremely painful. Not only can it put pressure on the toe joints, but it could also force the toe to twist to the side, resulting in soreness or even arthritis.
If you’re a little timid about cutting your pooch’s nails, you’re not alone (especially if your dog has black nails where you can’t see the quick). Check out my article on How To Cut Nails Without Being Afraid.
12. Dogs use their whiskers to sense the world around them.
Fact: Yep, you can think of a dog’s whiskers (also known as vibrissae) as little sensors that help him navigate the world. Those coarse long hairs that protrude from Fido’s face and muzzle are loaded with sensory nerves at the base of the follicles. These specialized sensory neurons send messages to the brain so your pooch will be able to assess what’s safe or dangerous while maneuvering through his environment. So, what happens to dogs that don’t have their whiskers? According to Kimberly Alt from caninejournal.com:
“If your dog’s whiskers are cut off, it can interfere with their ability to navigate their surroundings. Your dog may run into more items and be more susceptible to getting injured. The removal of a dog’s whiskers can be uncomfortable and stressful for them.”
13. Normal body temperature for a dog can be as high as 102º.
Fact: For humans, our normal body temperature is roughly 98.6º F. Knowing that, it would seem like 102º is pretty hot. But it’s actually not for Fido. Normal body temperature for a pooch can range from 101 to 102.5º. So, if your pooch feels hot to you, it’s because he is naturally hotter than you. But not to worry, he doesn’t have a fever – it’s perfectly normal. Above 102.5º would be considered a fever and a trip to the veterinarian would definitely be in order at that point.
14. Paul McCartney in his hit song “A Day In The Life” included a high-pitched dog whistle sound at the end of the recording.
Fact: If you’re ever playing the Beatles Sergeant Pepper Album and you’re sitting with your dog, play the last song on the album called A Day In The Life. At the end of the song, keep an eye on your pooch. Yes, I have tried it with my dog! And yes, her big ears perked right up!
15. Look at him, he looks so guilty. He knows what he did!
Myth: Oh, how many times have we heard this or even said it? Well, it’s actually a myth. Your dog is not looking guilty. Rather, that look on his face is more than likely a reaction to you as you yell at him and shake your finger in his face. He’s confused and maybe even afraid. Dogs live in the moment so whatever he did earlier when you didn’t see him, it’s time to move on.
16. Just like a human baby, a Chihuahua is born with a soft spot at the top of his head.
Fact. Yes, this is true. Just like a human infant, a Chihuahua has a soft spot called a molera. The opening is formed where the parietal and frontal bones have not yet fused together. The opening should close within one to four months. It should be noted, though, that for some dogs the plates never pull together and close. For these dogs, precautions should be taken to protect against head injury.
17. If you are just quickly running into the store it’s okay to crack the car window and leave Fido in the car.
Myth: No, no, no…never! It’s recommended to never leave your dog unattended in a car. In winter it’s too cold and in summer the rising temperature in a car can turn deadly in minutes. Please take a minute to read my article on this subject and you can watch Dr. Ernie Ward, a famous veterinarian who’s appeared on Animal Planet, as he shows you exactly what happens in a hot car.
18. Adopting shelter dogs are a problem.
Myth: Any dog (or person for that matter) could be a problem — you just never know. But just because a dog is in a shelter doesn’t mean he’s trouble. Many of these pooches were family dogs who, for some reason, were dropped off. Sometimes people get down on their luck and can no longer keep their pets. It could be for financial reasons, maybe a move where they can’t take the dog with them, illness, or maybe they just never knew what to do with a dog. In any case, we can’t change what was, but, hopefully, we can change what’s going to be. If you’re thinking of adopting, don’t let this myth scare you away. Your shelter dog will probably need a little more TLC because he’s probably been through a lot, but he may also be way more appreciative that you cared enough to take him home.
If you’re looking to adopt and don’t know where to start, Petfinder is a great place to begin. They have lists of shelter dogs from coast to coast. You can search by, breed, age group, and sex. The website also has tons of valuable articles and content.
19. All breeders are irresponsible.
Myth: After talking about shelter dogs, I felt it necessary to touch onto the subject of buying a dog. I don’t usually delve into anything controversial on this blog, but I felt I would be remiss not to add this. I don’t quite know how, when, or why breeders have become the devil. Responsible breeders and breed clubs maintain a vested interest in the health and welfare of a breed. They work to make sure that quality standards are maintained. Breeders and breed clubs were actually some of the first rescuers.
I would definitely advise not buying a dog from any backyard breeder, pet store, or classified ad like Craigslist. Responsible breeders do not sell their dogs to pet stores or on Craigslist. But if you want a certain breed of purebred dog, and want a puppy, you should never be made to feel like you’re doing something wrong. A good place to begin a search is at the AKC website. You can find breeder referrals, all kinds of breed information, articles, and advice. It should also be noted that the AKC has been the go-to resource for all things dog since 1884.
20. Dog is man’s best friend.
Fact: You bet he his. It turns out that the research is in. Studies have shown that oxytocin, also known as the bonding hormone, is not only at work in us humans, but it has its effects on Fido as well. Just as a mother looks into her newborn infant’s eyes and bonds, that same hormonal response has been documented to happen between dog parent and dog. According to sciencemag.org, canine cognition expert Brian Hare of Duke University said:
“It’s an incredible finding that suggests that dogs have hijacked the human bonding system.”
For many of us devoted dog parents, I’m sure that doesn’t surprise us. To find out 22 ways man’s best friend benefits our health, check out my article on the subject.