There are a million interesting things that you can learn about your pets to improve both their life and yours, and understanding what makes your dog tick can be helpful to their home life, to their behavior, and even to their personality. While some facts will vary based on your own pup, we've put together several interesting tidbits to help you learn a little more about what's going on with Rover.
Your dog can see more than black and white.
If you thought your pup was only seeing in shades of gray, black, and white – you're mistaken! Eyes contain nerve cells that can be split into two categories: ocular rods and ocular cones. While rods detect light, cones are the part of the eye that perceive color. According to Wag!, humans have many more color-sensing cones than dogs do; dog eyes contain between 1/9th and 1/12th of these ocular cones. We can see the "full" color spectrum, while pups can only see three shades of color: blue, blue-violet, and yellow. Anything with shades of red or green do appear to be shades of gray. However, there's a tradeoff. While dogs have fewer cones than humans, their eyes contain almost triple the rods – meaning that they have an incredibly keen eye for motion and can see much better in low light than humans can.
Dogs need to meet strangers when they're young.
Although it can be overwhelming or stressful to introduce your dog to people when they're small, it's actually crucial to your dog's socialization. According to Reader's Digest, experts say that dogs should meet about 100 new people in their first few months of living at home. And, these should be people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Familiarizing your puppy with the people around them will cause them to be much less fearful with strangers as they grow up. You should include people with accessories like sunglasses or hats, as well as folks who are bicycling, wheeling a stroller, or doing other day-to-day activities.
Food allergies are not as common as you would think.
While pet food companies would love you to think that every pup has an intolerance to some ingredient, food allergies actually aren't as common in dogs as you may think. And, while we hear a lot about "grain-free" being better for dogs, more pets are actually allergic to animal proteins than grains. According to the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, the most commonly reported food allergies are chicken (yes, really!), beef, dairy, and eggs. And, you don't have to worry about splurging on gluten-free products for Fido; a gluten allergy is very rare for dogs.
Dog noses are more advanced than you can imagine.
If you're interested in diving a little deeper into this topic, there's an interesting TedEd lesson below that teaches you more about the wonders of a dog's nose. Here's a snapshot: While humans have about 6 million olfactory receptors in their noses, dog noses contain upwards of 300 million. Their nose is also remarkably practical – they breathe in through their nostrils and then exhale through the slits on the sides of their noses, meaning there is constant scent-processing happening. This is where your pup's wet nose comes into play, as well; the "wet" nature of the nose catches compounds from the breeze. Dogs can also smell separately with each nostril, which gives them the ability to pinpoint the direction that the smell is coming from. Dogs have an acute way of smelling hormones, which means that they can read feelings of anger or stress on someone, as well as knowing when someone is pregnant. Some dogs can even sniff out cancerous cells! One phenomenal fact about a dog's sense of smell is that they can also process things that have happened in the past. They can smell when a car has just pulled away, or a human has just walked by – in addition to being able to process every unique chemical signature of the insects, flowers, people, and animals around them.
Dogs sweat through their paws.
Have you ever noticed your dog's paws smelling like corn chips? Turns out, this isn't because they've broken into your pantry. Although dogs cool themselves down by panting – which circulates air through their bodies – they actually sweat through their paw pads. When sweat and bacteria build up on their feet, it gives off that unique scent. Cleaning your dog's paws is especially necessary in the winter if they're trotting through salt; dog paws are very sensitive to the elements. However, a muddy summer is also a reason to clean their feet. Dirty paws can hide cuts or abrasions on the paw pads, making it harder to tell when your pup needs a trip to the vet. For minor cleanups, a moist towelette (like a baby wipe) should do the trick. Just make sure to check the product's ingredients; some compounds that are safe for humans (like alcohol) can be harmful to your furry friend. If a wipe isn't enough, you may need to clean paws in the tub with pet-safe soap and water. Dry gently with a towel when you're done.
Smelly dog breath isn't normal.
While we joke about stinky dog breath, it actually shouldn't be the norm for your pup. Similar to humans, bad breath comes around with a buildup of bacteria in the mouth; the same thing goes for dogs. If your pup has chronically bad breath, it may mean that they need to have their teeth checked by the vet, or something else could be going on in their gut or lungs. Bad breath in dogs is commonly caused by gum disease. If the issue is in your dog's gut, you may want to consider switching up his or her food. Your vet may also want to do a professional cleaning on your pup's teeth. To nip the issue in the bud, provide your pup with hard, safe toys or treats that encourage better breath. You can even brush your dog's teeth daily – just be sure to use a pup-approved toothpaste.
Dogs need to be walked, even if they have a big backyard.
Historically, dogs have always been energetic animals, whether they were roaming in the wild, herding sheep, or running around. While breeds have been used for different purposes – like hunting or to follow trails – many dog breeds have a long history of being active, which gives them a storage of natural energy. And, when they're just laying around the house, this energy is going unused. According to our friends at Wag!, even if a pup can go and run around in the backyard, walks are still valuable. "They get mental stimulation from a walk. They sniff, stop, investigate, pee, and meet new people and new dogs. Typically, they can’t do this in their backyard (or, it is not as exciting). Walking your dog for mental stimulation is an excellent way to encourage socialization."
You can adopt a "bark-less" dog, and they have a cool speaking alternative.
Although this only pertains to a certain breed of dog, it's a fascinating fact to know if you're looking for a pet who won't bark through the night. Meet the Basenji – a breed of African dog who is best known as the "bark-less" dog. Instead of that distinct barking noise that most dog owners are used to, the Basenji actually has a "yodeling" sound that sounds almost like a cooing bird or a chortle. According to the AKC, Basenjis are most often used as hunting dogs, but they have a sweet demeanor and unparalleled intelligence. Sounds like a great fit! Curious to hear what this yodel-like sound is? Have a listen below.
Your dog may not have a fever – a dog's body temperature is higher than a human's.
Although a temperature of 102˚F would be a high fever for a human, it's actually within normal range for a dog. The AKC tells us that the average temperature for dogs is between 99.5 and 102.5˚F (compared to our 98.6˚F thermometer reading). If you're worried that your pup might actually have a fever, you should instead start by checking his or her nose. If it is hot and dry, that's a good first indictator that something may be wrong. You can also look for red eyes, a lack of energy or appetite, or vomiting. Don't judge on body temperature alone, though, or you may be jumping to conclusions.
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Dogs don't just bark for attention.
Have you read the research that dogs obey women more than men? According to the article, women are more sensitive to emotional stimulants, making them more likely to understand their pups. Barking is one of the keys to understanding what's going on with your dog – or, what they want. Wag! shared a few indicators of what different tones or pitches of bark could signify: "A single whiny yap might signify your pup is hungry and wants some dinner. A constant highly pitched bark could mean he's excited at the new toy you've just brought home or he might be trying to let you know he is afraid of it. A throaty growl can be either playful or display aggression. A constant, agitated bark could mean there is someone lurking by the front door." Your pet is likely trying to tell you something when he or she speaks to you; don't pass off all barks as just wanting attention. It could be as simple as your pup missing you when you went to work, or exploring a new place that makes him or her nervous. Pay attention when your dog is barking – you may just get to know your furry friend a little better.