20 Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About Dogs

A dog may be man’s best friend, but there’s still so much we didn’t know about our canine companions. Ever wondered, for example, why your pooch’s nose is wet, or what that wagging tail actually means? Well, you’re in luck, because these 20 doggie facts will shed some light on what’s going on in that furry head.

20. Dog urine can melt street lights

Many dogs prefer street lights as their chosen pee place. However, letting your dog use these posts as a makeshift toilet could actually be more dangerous than you realize. In 2003, in fact, piddling pooches were blamed for a spate of crumbling street lights across Croatia. That’s because, over time, acidic dog urine can actually corrode metal.

19. Dogs can sniff out cancer

Amazingly, a dog’s sense of smell is around 10,000 times better than that of a human. And this enables them to sniff out certain diseases – including cancer. Indeed, it’s believed that our beloved canines can actually detect the scent of certain chemicals that are produced by cancerous tumors and secreted in human urine. And, incredibly, scientists think that this sense of smell is so acute that trained canine companions could potentially be used to detect the disease in its first stages.

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18. They fall in love

Pet owners will often wonder if the adoration they feel for their dog is reciprocated. Well there’s some good news: your dog probably feels the same way. According to Dr. Paul Zak, scientists “have pretty good evidence that dogs actually love their humans.” What’s more, Zak and his team discovered that our canine buds secrete the feel-good hormone oxytocin when interacting with their owners. Now that’s what we call puppy love!

17. Dogs have a fingerprint – but it’s not where you think

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While humans each have unique fingerprints, our four-legged friends also have individual markers of their identities. You won’t, however, find it on their paws. No, it’s actually their wet noses that hide a secret print with a distinct set of wrinkles and rumples different to every other mutt. Moreover, this could be good news for dog owners across the U.S., as some states have already welcomed the use of “noseprints” as a way of identifying lost pooches.

16. Dogs can see in color

One commonly held misconception is that our furry friends can only see in black and white. In actual fact, however, hounds can recognize blues and yellows, even if they can’t tell the difference between red and green. They can’t see as many colors as us because while we have three color-detecting cones in our eyes, dogs only have two.

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15. Thunder can actually be painful for dogs

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If your dog cowers behind the sofa during a storm, it may not just be because they’re scared. Because their sense of hearing is so heightened, in fact, loud cracks of thunder can actually hurt hounds. And on top of this, changes in humidity and pressure caused by adverse weather could also cause some discomfort in their ears.

14. Dogs have dreams too

It may come as no surprise to those that have witnessed a sleeping dog twitch and writhe around to hear that dogs have dreams, just like humans. According to the experts at Psychology Today, our pets enjoy common doggie activities like chasing sticks and rolling around in the grass as they snooze. And that’s why they can go from dozing peacefully to waving their legs frantically in the blink of an eye.

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13. Petting a pooch is good for your health

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Cuddling up to a canine friend can actually have positive cardiovascular effects in humans. In fact, talking to and stroking a dog has been found to lower heart rate and blood pressure. Furthermore, interaction with animals can also decrease the production of cortisol – the body’s stress hormone – meaning that petting a pup could benefit both your mental and physical health.

12. Dogs sleep curled up for protection

Watching your dog curl up to go to sleep is adorable, but your pooch actually has an important function for getting into this position. As veterinary clinician Dr. Margaret Gruen has explained to website Vetstreet, “When dogs sleep in the wild, especially where it’s cold, they’ll dig a nest and curl up into it. This gives them warmth, as tucking into a ball conserves body heat. It also protects their most vulnerable organs in the abdomen from would-be predators.”

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11. Their wet noses help them smell better

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As we’ve already mentioned, a dog’s sense of smell is pretty amazing. However, it wouldn’t be nearly as good if it wasn’t for the animal’s famous wet nose. The fine blanket of mucus that covers the ends of their snouts actually helps pups soak up all those important scent chemicals. And when they lick their snouts, they’re licking the chemicals off for further investigation.

10. Dogs prefer to poop in alignment with the Earth’s magnetic field

In what is perhaps the most bizarre dog-related discovery ever, in 2013 scientists found that the Earth’s magnetic field dictated the way our four-legged friends do their business. Indeed, a study concluded that dogs could sense small variations in the Earth’s force field and favoured pooping “with the body being aligned along the North–South axis under calm magnetic field conditions.”

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9. Dogs can feel jealousy but not guilt

Research into dog emotions has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and it’s now believed that the animals can actually feel jealousy. Indeed, a study by the University of California found that dogs got a touch of the green-eyed monster when they saw their owners cuddling up to a toy dog. However, while some owners may think that their pooch looks ashamed after being naughty, research has shown that those sad-looking eyes aren’t actually betraying any signs of guilt at all.

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8. Circling before they go to sleep is a sign of their wild past

Although dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, our pampered pets still show some signs of their feral past. In particular, when dogs walk around in circles before eventually settling down in a comfy spot, they are mimicking a ritual they would have used in the wild. The repetitive motion would have squashed down long grasses to make a better bed.

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7. Some dogs see hugs as a sign of dominance

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It’s not like with cats, many of which arguably detest the very idea of human contact; no, dog lovers have always thought that our canine companions don’t mind the odd cuddle. However, it turns out that some pooches might interpret hugging as a threat. This isn’t, however, the case for all dogs. In fact, if you’re a cuddler it might be best to find a golden retriever, as these affectionate animals are renowned for their love of any physical contact.

6. Newfoundlands have webbed feet

Newfoundlands, often referred to as the “gentle giant” of all dogs, are actually water dogs. In fact, they have a water-resistant coat and large, webbed feet to help make them excellent swimmers. And these factors, combined with the breed’s natural strength, have seen Newfoundlands frequently used as water rescue and fishing dogs in the past.

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5. Dogs can get degrees

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Not being able to read or write hasn’t stood in the way of some pooches becoming academics. For example, in 2013 Johns Hopkins University awarded golden retriever Kirsch an honorary master’s degree in mental health for sitting through all of his owner’s classes. And the service dog even accompanied his owner, Carlos Mora, to the graduation ceremony in his very own cap and gown.

4. Dogs can learn over 1,000 words

While most dogs can recognise more than 150 words, some gifted pups can actually understand over 1,000. Chaser the border collie, for instance, has been described as the “smartest dog in the world” thanks to her aptitude for human language. Professor of psychology John W. Pilley has worked with the dog since 2004, and although the pooch is now 12 years old, he has claimed that Chaser is still picking up new words every day.

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3. A wagging tail doesn’t always mean a happy dog

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A dog’s wagging tail is usually associated with joy – however, tail language is actually much more complicated than that. In fact, scientists have found that a tail that wags more to the right is a sign of happiness, while one with a bias to the left could show fear. Still, the differences between the two are so subtle that they are often overlooked by humans. Meanwhile, a low wag symbolizes insecurity – and a fast wag could be a sign of aggression.

2. America loves dogs

America has the highest population of dogs compared to any other country on the planet. There are over 75 million pooches in the U.S., and 62 percent of households own a pet. Of all the states, Arkansas is home to the most dog lovers; yes, here almost half of all households have canine companions.

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1. Three lucky dogs escaped the Titanic disaster

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The sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912 killed more than 1,500 people. And many animals were also among those to die on board the liner’s doomed maiden voyage – among them a dozen dogs, one cat, four roosters, 30 cockerels and one canary. However, three dogs who were staying in first class did manage to survive the disaster. Henry and Myra Harper’s Pekinese and two Pomeranians belonging to Elizabeth Rothschild and Margaret Hays all escaped to safety with their owners.

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