New dog owners face an almost endless list of dos don'ts and everything in between but in among the fact is plenty of fiction.
TeamDogs has dug beneath the surface to dispel the myths surrounding man's best friend.
The research picks apart even some of the most common tales that all dog lovers are likely to have heard at least once or twice, from black and white vision to old dogs not learning new tricks.
Below are 15 facts that every dog owner, present and prospective needs to get their head around – especially point number ten which could mean the difference between life and death.
1. Dogs are colour blind
Despite a prevailing myth that dogs can only see in black and white, your pooch actually can see a spectrum of colour. While they do have trouble distinguishing between different shades of green and red, which will mostly just appear as greys and browns, blue and yellow tones are relatively clear to them.
2. A dry warm nose means your dog isn’t well
All in all, your dog’s wet, dry, warm, or cold nose has to do with the weather and humidity. It can change in minutes.
A hot, dry nose doesn’t always mean trouble, but it can certainly be a sign of fever, dehydration, or even conditions like dry eye. If your dog’s dry nose is accompanied by other symptoms, like lethargy, vomiting or diarrhea, or changes in activity or appetite, contact your vet for advice.
3. You can't teach an old dog new tricks
Pups’ brains soak up new information like sponges and they learn very quickly but, while it takes a little longer, you can certainly train an adult dog.
Dogs learn best with motivation, so grab some tasty, high value treats like chicken or hot dog, and get ready to praise good work.
The best way to go about teaching an old dog new tricks is to make training sessions fun, keep them positive and do them little and often – practice five to six times a day.
4. Dogs only yawn when they are tired
You’ve probably noticed that your dog yawns in situations that are not supposed to make them sleepy, like during playing or when being stroked (especially by other people), for example. But it doesn’t actually mean that the dog is bored or wants to sleep. Yawning for dogs is a way of dealing with anxiety and reducing stress too.
5. All dogs are good swimmers
If you lift a dog over a pool, it will start moving its paws but it doesn’t mean that all dogs are great swimmers from birth. Yes, most dogs love swimming and do it with joy, and they can be taught to do so. But some dogs can’t even stay above the water’s surface.
The dogs that have a powerful chest and a heavy skull are not very good swimmers — bulldogs, mastiffs, dachshunds, and boxers, for example. Small dogs should be put into water in a more careful way because they’re more prone to hyperthermia.
6. Dogs need to chew on bones
For centuries, people have continued to believe that dogs need bones. The myth has been perpetuated in literature and art but bones can actually do far more harm than good. The most dangerous bones are long, boiled, and tubular like those from a chicken leg. Dogs can chew on them and easily swallow sharp pieces that can injure their digestive tract. In some cases, it can even lead to death.
There are a lot of different dog treats in pet stores that you can definitely give to your pets. You can also give your dog a fresh bone that it can’t chew into pieces.
7. A female dog feels ‘empty’ if they don’t have a litter
This is an old wives’ tale, and so is the myth that female dogs need to have one litter before spaying.
Dogs are unable to feel broody and allowing them to have one litter before getting them neutered has no proven health or behaviour benefit for them, and could also contribute to the numbers of unwanted dogs in rescue centres.
Neutering your female dog before their first season greatly reduces the risk of them getting breast cancer. Neutering also prevents other fatal illnesses such as womb infections (called pyometra), and prevents false pregnancies, which can cause behavioural problems.
8. If a dog is waving its tail, it means it’s friendly
People are used to thinking that a wagging tail means that a dog is friendly but this isn’t always true. It can mean the dog is actually very unhappy. If a dog’s body is almost motionless and it only shakes its tail, it’s likely that the animal is feeling tense and may attack you.
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.
9. Dogs age seven years for every human year
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so working out their age in human years isn’t quite as simple as multiplying it by seven.
Different breeds take different lengths of time to reach maturity, and lifespans vary based on size and genetics, too. Smaller breeds tend to live longer than larger breeds, and they also take longer to mature than their bigger cousins.
10. A little bit of chocolate is fine
NO! DO NOT feed your dog chocolate as it can be really dangerous. How dangerous depends on the type of chocolate and the size of the dog.
Chocolate contains a chemical called ‘theobromine’, which is toxic to dogs. The amount of theobromine in chocolate depends on the type and quality of it – white chocolate only has a little, but dark chocolate contains a lot.
Small amounts of milk chocolate probably won't have dire consequences for a big dog, but it’s best not to run the risk and keep this sweet treat to yourself. If your dog has eaten a lot of chocolate, particularly if it’s dark, call your vet.
11. Dogs have clean mouths
Of all the dog myths you hear, don’t believe this one. Dogs explore their world with their mouths and noses, and because of that, there’s no telling ‘been in your pet’s mouth that very day.
As far as getting sick from a doggy kiss, the New York Times reports that the germs in your dog’s mouth are typically specific to dogs. Some pathogens like salmonella and certain rare bacteria strains can be passed on to humans in dog saliva, but serious infections are relatively rare. So, don't stress too much over the occasional lick!
12. Dogs eat grass only if they are sick
Eating grass doesn’t always mean your dog is sick (though sometimes it does). Dogs eat grass for lots of reasons such as to improve digestion, to fulfil a nutritional need, or just because they’re bored or they like the feel and taste of it.
13. Dogs feel guilt
Dogs can feel primary emotions such as happiness, sadness, and fear, but there is no evidence to support the fact that they feel secondary emotions like shame or guilt. We’ve all seen the cute guilty dog videos on TikTok, but when dogs appear guilty, it has been thought that it is actually a learned response to a human reaction.
They respond to what their owners are doing, but do not know that they did something wrong and therefore can’t feel bad for it. Interestingly, it is believed that smiling is also a learned human response in dogs.
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14. A well-trained dog will never bite
None of us want to think our little furry friend would ever bite anyone. A common situation for people is going to pet a strange dog and looking at the owner for permission, and the owner is happy to let them, saying ‘Oh, don’t worry, my dog never bites.’
Dogs bite for many reasons, including when they are startled or surprised, when they feel cornered, or when they are defending their territory or loved ones. A dog does not have to be a “mean dog” to bite.
Although it may be the case that the dog has never bitten anyone before, it’s impossible to say that a dog would never bite.
15. I need to show my dog who is boss by being the pack leader
You really don’t. Dominance based dog training is based on studies of captive wolves in the 1970s which popularised the theory that ‘alpha’ wolves become the leader of the pack by being aggressive towards other wolves. But science has moved on and this theory has now been debunked.
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