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30 Fun Facts About Dogs

Find out why your dog acts the way he does.

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The “smell” center of a dog’s brain is 40 times larger than yours

Dogs can smell thousands of times better than humans. Their noses have millions more scent receptors—for example, a human nose averages 5 million while a Dachshund’s nose has 125 million—making them useful in sniffing out drugs, dead bodies, bed bugs, explosives, and more. Find out more secrets your pet isn’t telling you.

beautiful close-up dog from behind viewNatee K Jindakum/Shutterstock

Their ears are pretty impressive too

Dogs’ sense of smell might be pretty amazing, but don’t forget about their hearing! Everything from the positioning of their ears to the muscles in them helps them pick up a whole host of sounds that humans can’t pick up. In fact, the most popular explanation for why dogs tilt their heads is that they’re trying to locate the source of a sound. This dog’s senses were so special that they saved a boy’s life!

My real friend portraitSoloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

But their sense of taste is much less developed

Dogs have approximately a sixth of the number of taste buds that humans have (1,700 taste buds to humans’ approximately 9,000). This is why dogs will scarf rotting food scraps as voraciously as they’ll eat a bowl of kibble or a hunk of steak. Their less discriminatory sense of taste also has to do with their evolutionary instincts, carried over from when they would scavenge in the wild. These famous shelter dogs will warm your heart.

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No two dog noses are the same

A dog’s nose is the equivalent of a human fingerprint, with each having a unique pattern of ridges and creases. Plus, find out the reason dogs’ noses are always wet.

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Dogs dream like people

If you’ve ever noticed your pooch twitching in her sleep, this probably means she’s dreaming. Researchers found that dogs have similar sleep patterns and brain activity as humans, and that small breeds tend to dream more than large ones. Psychology Today suggests they’re probably imagining familiar activities like playing outside or chasing their tail. Learn more dog facts about dog dreams with these things you can learn just from your pup’s sleeping position.

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Dogs are as smart as a two-year-old baby

According to canine researcher and author Stanley Coren, your toddler and pup are about on par when it comes to brains. He also explained that man’s best friend can count, understand over 150 words, and even trick people or other dogs to get treats. Intelligence varies based on breed—Border collies are the smartest. Check out the full ranking of the smartest dogs.

secrets-your-pet-store-wont-tell-youannahoychuck/Shutterstock

Dogs only mate twice a year

Unspayed females only go into heat twice a year, so dog breeders need to plan carefully. Find out some more things your veterinarian won’t tell you.

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Tail wagging has its own language

If your dog excitedly wags their tail, it means they’re happy to see you, right? Not necessarily. According to Discovery.com, dogs wag their tails to the right when they’re happy and to the left when they’re frightened. Wagging low means they’re insecure, and rapid tail wagging accompanied by tense muscles or dilated pupils can signal aggression. Find out more fun facts about dogs’ tails and what they’re trying to tell you.

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Puppies are born blind and deaf

Newborn dogs are still developing, according to Psychology Today, so their ear canals and eyes are still closed. Most puppies open their eyes and respond to noises after about two weeks. These are the things you absolutely need before you get a puppy.

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Dogs have a “sixth sense”

In a 2010 poll, 67 percent of pet owners reported their pets acting strangely right before a storm, and 43 percent said their pets behaved oddly right before something bad happened. The top clues? Whining, erratic behavior, or trying to hide in a safe place. There are even reports that dogs can sense illnesses, like cancer. Check out more superpowers that all dogs have.

Little puppy squinting, closes his eyes and wants to sleep. Tired little dog on a cozy soft background. Small Pet on Human Hands Top View. Baby dog sleeping on his back paws up. Retro Insta FilterSundays Photography/Shutterstock

Dogs only have sweat glands in their paws

Even though they sweat out through the pads of their paws, their main form of cooling down is panting. Pet owners, beware of these signs of heatstroke in dogs.

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Your dog’s feet might smell like corn

Some pet owners might notice the faint scent of corn chips or popcorn lingering around their dog. This is called “Frito feet,” and it happens when sweat and bacteria build up in the paws.

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“Dog breath” is actually unhealthy

You might expect your dog’s mouth to smell like, well, dog. But persistent bad breath can actually be a sign of dental disease or other health problems. If you don’t already, have your dog’s teeth examined by a veterinarian every year. Watch out for other common signs that your dog is sick.

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It’s not abnormal for dogs to eat feces

It’s no secret: dogs often eat their own feces (and other fecal matter). But though it might seem gross, the ASPCA says it’s perfectly normal, stemming from their pre-domestication days thousands of years ago. More common in puppies, older dogs usually grow out of it, although some do it into adulthood. Here are more dog facts about this confounding canine habit.

Brown dog poop bag resting on grassDoug McLean/shutterstock

Dogs pooping has a pattern

Ever wonder why dogs like to twirl around before they do their business? Well, it’s one of the many dog behaviors that perplex researchers, but the prevailing theory is that it has to do with the Earth’s magnetic field. Dogs like to poop facing north or south, and spinning around helps them correctly orient their internal compasses.

Sad Dog Vizsla lying on benchIvanova N/Shutterstock

Dogs get jealous

“You’re not imagining it if you think your dog is acting jealous when you give other dogs attention,” says Nikki Naser, Resident Pet Expert at Chewy. “It might not be exactly how we experience jealousy, but research has shown that it’s similar to how an infant might get jealous.” That certainly tracks with dogs’ intelligence being on par with that of a toddler. This dog jealousy is something dog groomers experience when they come home to their own dogs—it’s one of the things pet groomers wish you knew.

Image of young girl with her dog, alaskan malamute, outdoorPavel Ilyukhin/Shutterstock

Don’t get so touchy-feely

Of course, you love your good boy or girl so much. But they actually don’t love it when you give them big bear hugs. “The way people show love is not the same way a dog shows love or wants to receive love,” says Russell Hartstein, CEO of the Los Angeles puppy training company Fun Paw Care. “In fact, it can be very stressful.” He says that dogs can adapt and become comfortable with loved ones doing it, but you should still be careful about giving hugs to a dog you don’t know well, and about letting strangers hug yours. You might be surprised to learn other things you do that your dog actually hates, too.

closeup portrait of tricolor beagle dog, focus on the eyeGCapture/Shutterstock

Dogs aren’t actually color-blind

This is one of the most common dog “facts” that are actually false. Despite a prevailing myth that dogs can only see in black and white, your pooch actually can see a spectrum of color. While they do have trouble distinguishing between different shades of green and red, which will mostly just appear as grays and browns, blue and yellow tones are relatively clear to them.

puppy in a mailbox - american cocker spaniel puppy - 8 weeks oldWilleeCole Photography/Shutterstock

Dogs hating mailmen is nothing personal

Dogs are a protective species, and they understandably see a person coming near their house and placing unfamiliar objects in a box as a potential threat. And it’s often made worse, not better, by the fact that the mail carrier comes repeatedly; dogs figure out approximately when they arrive and then get riled up and antsy beforehand. To save your mail carrier from undue canine aggression, experts recommend being friendly to them, around your dog, so that your dog can see that you trust them. You can also let your mail carrier know what your dog’s name is so that he or she can properly address your dog.

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Your dog responds to your tone

 

Don’t forget that dogs don’t experience the full breadth of emotions that humans do, so if you’re trying to train or admonish your dog, taking an angry tone and a very loud voice might just make him skittish. According to Hartstein, “your prosodic of speech, tone, rhythm, [and the] pitch of your voice is far more important” than what you’re actually saying. That’s also a big part of the reason why dogs respond positively to that high-pitched cute-pet speak. You should also ignore these common dog training myths.

brown dog yawning on the bedElayne Massaini/Shutterstock

A dog’s yawn is not quite the same as a human’s yawn

When your dog lets out a big yawn, you probably just assume it means what it does when we yawn—that he’s sleepy. And it certainly can be a sign of tiredness, but dogs yawn for other reasons as well. Dogs can also yawn to calm themselves down, so repeated yawns could be a sign that your pup is feeling anxious or stressed out. It’s similar to the way a cat’s purr can mean lots of different things, so assessing the context of the situation can usually help you figure out what’s going on.

British cat and Golden RetrieverChendongshan/Shutterstock

Dogs don’t actually have it out for cats

Media portrayals of these furry frenemies would have you believe that chasing cats is hard-wired in dogs’ DNA. But it’s not specific to cats; their evolutionary, hunting instincts are the reason they chase after anything small and speedy, whether it’s their favorite ball or little Tiger. But dogs and cats can actually get along great, even in the same household, depending on the animals themselves and whether you introduce the animals the right way. Find out more about how you should be introducing unfamiliar animals to one another.

Pug dog in red dog boots and on a leash walking in the park.Florian Heiller/shutterstock

Dogs heat up more quickly than humans

 

Dogs’ normal body temperature is slightly higher than that of humans (it hovers at around 101.5° F), which means that hotter temperatures can affect them more. This is why you need to take care while walking your dog on a hot day. Also, don’t forget about the pavement if you’re taking your dog for a walk—the ground heats up fast in the sun and can be painful on dogs’ unguarded feet. Not to mention, dogs have that thick layer of fur. So a day that may not seem overwhelmingly hot to you can be a scorcher for your dog. That’s why you need to be especially careful of these warning signs of heatstroke in dogs.

girl gives an Australian Shepherd dog a treatChristian Mueller/Shutterstock

Sticking your hand out isn’t the best way to introduce yourself to a new dog

This is another of the fun facts about dogs that aren’t quite true. You probably grew up believing that the old “hold your hand out to an unfamiliar dog, let it smell you” advice was gospel. And it can work, but you have to be careful about how you do it. Just shoving your hand toward a strange dog’s face can scare or alienate her. You’re better off letting the dog approach you first and then offering your hand to the dog to smell, rather than assuming she wants to and waving your hand under her nose. And approach the dog from the side, rather than from straight on, if you must approach the dog yourself.

A group of four dogs of different breeds is lying on a green lawn.Frank11/shutterstock

“Dog years” vary a lot based on breed

Nope, every dog year does not automatically equal seven human years, as many fun facts about dogs would have you believe. The fact—which does have some factual merit—came from observations that “average,” medium-sized dogs tended to live around one-seventh as long as their owners. However, dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and what’s “average” for a Great Dane is very different from what’s “average” for a Chihuahua. Paying attention to the “life stages” of dogs, and how they correspond to each breed, gives you a much better picture of how old your dog actually is than equating one year to seven years. Learn more about the life stages of dogs and how they’re the most accurate way to determine your pet’s age.

Nice taste. Close up of beautiful dog eating from the bowlDmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

Trying to be “dominant” over your dog is not the best approach

Despite enjoying considerable popularity for many years, the “dominance” theory of dog training is finally seeing the truth come out. “You should never try to dominate your dog,” Hartstein insists. The idea that you need to show your dog “who’s alpha,” with methods such as eating before your dog, making sure you’re always in a higher position than them, or punitive behavior, is outdated and ineffective. Of course, you need to set a routine and make sure your dog understands rules and boundaries, but avoid traditional advice about displays of dominance.

Happy girl with a dog licking her faceESB Professional/shutterstock

Those dog “kisses” don’t mean what you think

You might think a lick to the face is your dog’s way of giving you a kiss. But that’s another popular dog fact that’s not quite true. “Kissing” isn’t a form of showing affection that comes naturally to dogs, so your snout-smooches may not be received as lovingly as you might think. If they lick your face—or make other motions like shifting their position, yawning, or licking their own lips—this could actually be a sign they want you to give them space, since having a face so close to their own could be viewed as aggressive or threatening. But, of course, dogs have been adapting to live with humans for thousands of years, and the Happy Puppy Site says that some dogs do catch on and learn to associate the kisses with affection. This is what your favorite dog breed says about your personality.

Dogs greeting each other at a dog park.Jennifer Tepp/Shutterstock

Dogs sniff butts to learn about each other

If the dog facts about dog kisses haven’t convinced you that dogs and humans use different forms of communication, the fact that butt-sniffing is a common dog greeting surely will. A dog’s unique smell is secreted in its glands, and yes, those scent glands are located in their backsides. Dogs’ rear ends are home to glands that produce pheromones, which contain information about everything from the sex of the dog to its health and diet. Thanks to dogs’ incredible senses of smell, they can learn all sorts of information about one another just from the nuances of the odor. So the butt-sniff is basically the dogs’ method of getting a first impression.

Close-up portrait of pleased girl with short brown hair embracing funny beagle dog with eyes closed. Smiling young woman in white shirt enjoying good day and posing with pet on terrace.Look Studio/Shutterstock

Petting dogs can lower your blood pressure

You can find all sorts of research and fun facts about dogs and the health benefits of having one. And this factoid is true—petting a puppy can cause your blood pressure to drop around 10 percent. And, according to the American Kennel Club, the blood pressure of the dog being pet drops too.

Lovely mixed breed puppy on the floor of the living roommatabum/Shutterstock

Dogs have three eyelids

Ready for more weird anatomy-related fun facts about dogs? Dogs have three eyelids in each eye! In addition to a top and bottom lid, they have a “nictitating membrane” in the corner of their eye, primarily for removing dust and mucus from the cornea. And cats actually have it too! You might see it when your pet wakes up suddenly, as the membrane is shut when your pet sleeps. Now that these dog facts have helped you understand your pup a little better, dig into these things your dog really wants from you.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.