10 facts you didn't know about dogs!


26 August 2015

1. Smell of success

We all know how much dogs like to sniff, but did you know that although your dog's brain is only about a tenth the size of a human's, the percentage devoted to analysing smells is 40 times larger! Dogs have millions more scent receptors in their noses than humans, making them incredibly useful for tasks such as drug detection, sniffing out explosives, and even alerting people to the early stages of disease.

Interestingly, since the 1970s, beekeepers have used trained dogs to track the scent of bacteria that can cause a deadly disease in beehives. Dogs are so successful at this that beekeepers are able to inspect up to 100 colonies in 45 minutes, instead of the two days it would take a human to do the same job.

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2. Totally unique

Humans have individual fingerprints, but in the dog world no two dogs have identical noses. Every dog's nose has a unique pattern of ridges and creases. Also, unlike humans, dogs are able to move their nostrils independently, which allows them to determine the direction a smell is coming from. Clever stuff!

3. Sweet dreams

Have you ever wondered what your dog is dreaming about when he twitches and whimpers in his sleep? Researchers used electroencephalograms (EEG) to test brain activity when dogs were sleeping and discovered that dogs have similar sleep patterns and brain activity to humans. They also discovered that small breeds are more likely to dream than large dogs. A Toy Poodle may dream every 10 minutes, while a Golden Retriever may only dream once every 90 minutes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, puppies dream much more frequently, which could be because they are constantly experiencing new things.

4. Clever dogs

Animal psychologists have discovered that the average dog is linguistically as clever as a human two-year-old child. Canine researcher and author Stanley Coren, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, found that dogs of average intelligence are capable of understanding up to 165 words and gestures, can count up to five, and can perform simple mathematical calculations. Dogs in the top 20 per cent of the study were able to understand up to 250 words and signals - the same as a two-and-a-half-year-old child. Interestingly, a survey of more than 200 dog obedience judges in the US and Canada rated Border Collies as the most intelligent breed, while Afghan hounds were deemed to be the least intelligent.

5. Happy days

Although all dogs wag their tail, this may not mean that they are feeling happy and confident. Italian scientists, who studied tail wagging in 43 healthy dogs of different breeds, claim that a tail wag with a bias to the right signifies happiness, and a wag to the left signifies anxiety. It was also noted that other dogs noticed and reacted to the way another dog wagged his tail. Dogs that were shown a video of another dog wagging his tail more towards the left, developed increased heart rates and began to look anxious, but dogs that were shown a video of a dog with his tail wagging more to the right remained perfectly calm and relaxed.

6. Sixth sense

Last year British researchers discovered that a variety of mammals, including dogs, do indeed have a sixth sense, as they are able to see in ultraviolet. The lens of the human eye blocks ultraviolet, but some animals are now known to be able to process it. This enables animals to see better in the dark, but it is not known what other benefits there could be. Seeing in ultraviolet could help to explain why some dogs seem to spook at things that we humans cannot see.

7. Hot under the collar

Humans perspire when they overheat but dogs struggle in hot weather because they cannot produce sweat in the same way. Most of a dog's sweat glands are located around his footpads, which is why you may notice a trail of damp footprints on a hot day.

Dogs pant with their mouths open to help keep cool. Panting allows moisture on the tongue to evaporate, and heavy breathing allows moisture to evaporate from the moist lining of their lungs.

8. On the other hand…

Just like humans, dogs have a natural propensity to favour one paw over the other. Check out which paw your dog prefers by offering him a cylindrical toy or sealed cardboard tube with treats inside and see which paw he ‘holds' the toy with while he tries to get the treats out.

This is useful information, as you may find that your dog finds certain moves easier on one side than the other. You can help to counterbalance this by practising more on the side he finds more difficult, and ending training sessions with the dog doing something on the side he finds easiest.

9. Body image

Dogs have twice as many muscles for moving their ears as humans and they use these amazing muscles to display over 100 different facial expressions. Dogs can also hear sounds that are four times further away.

However, when it comes to distinguishing colours, humans have the edge. Human eyes have three cones that detect colour and can identify red, blue, green, and yellow wavelengths, but dogs only have two cones and can only distinguish blue and yellow. This is the same spectrum seen by humans who are colour blind.

10. It's a date!

In research conducted by Dogs Trust 60 per cent of survey respondents said that owning a dog makes people more attractive, while 85 per cent think people are more approachable with a hound at their heels.

Nearly all of those surveyed (more than 95 per cent) said they would feel more comfortable speaking to a stranger if they had a dog. Of those who gave a reason for this, two thirds said dog owners seemed friendlier, more approachable, and trustworthy. No wonder dogs are our best friends!