Dog owners and lovers alike might think they know everything there is to know about dogs, but don’t be surprised if this list challenges your general knowledge.
Dogs are our oldest companions, and they have plenty of interesting secrets and factoids that’ll rattle your perception of man’s best friend. Cats might be more mysterious, but these pieces of curious information will have you falling in love with dogs all over again.
Without further ado, here are some of the most fascinating (and sometimes downright bizarre) facts about dogs.
57 Interesting Facts About Dogs
Get ready to have your mind blown by some of these astounding canine-related facts.
1. A Dog Was Nominated For An Oscar
The famous German Shepherd, Rin Tin Tin, won an Academy Award in 1927 for his performance in 4 box office hits. He won the Best Actor category but was declared ineligible for the award because the Academy wanted their new awards show to be taken seriously.
2. Labradors are the Most Popular Breed
Yes, it’s official. People love Labs, to the point that they’ve been consistently voted one of the top 10 breeds since 1991 in the official AKC’s popular breeds list. Not only this, they’ve managed to hold the number one position in the ranking, too.
3. Their Sense of Smell is Incredible
This is a common fact, but did you know it’s because they have over 100 million sensory receptors in their nasal cavity compared to a human’s measly six million? Depending on the breed, that number can rise as high as 300 million. This is all thanks to an additional olfactory organ called Jacobson’s Organ that dogs have at their disposal.
4. Their Brain Has a Larger Area Dedicated to Smell
This ties into the previous fact: the area of a canine brain that analyzes odors is also larger than humans—a whopping 40 times larger, to be exact.
5. A Dog’s Nose Can Sense Thermal Radiation
In layman’s terms, a dog’s nose can detect heat. This means that they can detect body heat from potential prey, which is how blind or deaf dogs can still hunt successfully even without seemingly necessary visual or auditory senses.
6. Dogs Can “Catch” Yawns Too
A yawn is typically contagious between humans, but did you know your dog can be triggered to yawn if they hear you doing it first? It’s especially likely if it’s a person they know and love, up to four times more likely in fact.
7. A Basenji Can Actually Bark…Sort Of
Don’t know what a Basenji is? Well, imagine an athletic Jack Russel, and you’ll have a close mental picture. They’re dubbed as “barkless” dogs, because, well, they simply don’t bark. They are, however, quite vocal—they yodel. Try explaining that to your neighbors.
8. Dogs Aren’t as Colorblind as We Thought
The popular conception was that dogs see in black and white, but now we know that isn’t quite true. While many colors escape their visual vocabulary because they only have two types of cones (color receptors) in their eyes, they are able to see blue and yellow. This is called dichromatic vision.
9. Dogs Kick Their Back Legs To Mark Their Territory
You might’ve noticed your dog kicking their back legs against the ground a few times after going to the bathroom. This isn’t about covering up their business. In fact, they have scent glands on their paw pads, and rubbing their paws against the ground activates them, thereby marking their territory.
10. Greyhounds Can Beat Cheetahs in a Long-Distance Race
Although Cheetahs can run twice as fast as Greynouds at around 70 mph, they can only maintain that speed for about 30 seconds. A Greyhound can run at a speed of 35 mph for as long as seven miles. So even if the cheetah starts out strong, the Greyhound will outdistance them in the long run.
11. Humans Can Taste More Than Dogs
While dogs may be king of scents, they only have about 1,700 taste buds compared to humans, who have about 9,000 on average. This is why we find some things disgusting to our palate, while dogs are much less fussy.
12. A Dog’s Nose is as Unique as Our Fingerprint
Every canine nose has a completely individual pattern of creases and ridges even within the same breed, much like human fingerprints. No two dog noses will deliver the same pattern, making it a surefire way of dog identification.
13. Dogs Dream to Varying Degrees
We’ve all seen those adorable sleep twitches while dogs dream, but did you know that pups and senior dogs are more likely to dream than adult dogs? Smaller breeds are also more likely to dream than larger breeds.
14. They’re as Smart as a 2-Year-Old Human Child
According to the research by Stanley Coren, canine researcher and author, toddlers and dogs have one thing in common—their brains. Intelligence can vary between breeds, though. Border Collies take the cake as the smartest, while Afghan Hounds are the least intelligent.
15. Dogs Can Understand Our Language
On average, an intelligent dog can learn and comprehend more than 1,000 words. Sometimes it’s from you teaching them commands, and sometimes they learn independently from observing you in your daily life and figuring out word associations with your actions. They can even learn to count, too.
16. Puppies are Born Blind and Deaf
What a way to come into the world, right? At birth, puppies are still technically developing, so their ear canals and eyes are kept shut initially. After about two to three weeks they open, introducing pups to a world of light and sound.
17. Dogs Can Detect Some Cancers
As incredible as it sounds, some canines have an unofficial MD. Trained dogs can detect bladder cancer in the urine of a patient, as well as lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and colorectal cancer from breath samples. Labradors tend to be the most accurate at detection.
18. They Can Also Predict Seizures
When you see a service dog at someone’s side, it might be that they’re an epileptic sufferer. Dogs can pick up seizures through smell as far in advance as 45 minutes before they actually occur. This gives their human patient enough time to make preparations or take preventative measures.
19. A Bloodhound’s Nose Can Legally Submit Evidence
Labrador Retrievers may be at the top of many lists for detection involving smell. But the Bloodhound’s tracking capabilities of suspects from a crime scene can actually be submitted in a court of law as evidence because this dog’s sense of smell is so accurate.
20. The Smallest Dog in the World by Height was a Chihuahua
Not just in general, but officially, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. The smallest dog’s name was Miracle Milly, and she was a mere 3.8 inches tall and weighed one pound. Born in 2011, she died in 2020 but still retains the record.
21. Dogs Only Have Sweat Glands in their Paws
This is why you’ve never come across a dog with sweaty armpits. Instead, they secrete an oily substance through their skin that’s laden with pheromones. The only place on their body where they properly sweat is on their paws, which is why they need to pant and circulate air through their lungs to keep cool.
22. They Can Be Left or Right Handed
Well, “pawed,” to be precise. It turns out through some studies that dogs can have a preferential paw that they use, much like humans. If you want to discover your dog’s handedness, just give them an interactive game or their favorite toy and notice which paw they tend to use first.
23. Dogs Have 18 Muscles Controlling Their Ears
As much as we require extra muscles for facial nuance, dogs need a lot of muscles to help them alter their ear position by degrees and rotations. This is to help them detect the direction of sounds and hear them better, as well as express their emotions. The position of your dog’s ears is vital for communication with humans and other canines.
24. Canine Feet Smell Like Corn Chips
Any dog owner knows this, and some even think the smell is adorable. This phenomenon is commonly called “Frito Feet” and happens when a build-up of sweat and bacteria occurs in the paws. It’s nothing to be concerned over, though—a good bath will sort it out.
25. Dog’s Poop According to the Compass
Ever seen a dog twirl in circles before doing their business? The prevailing theory is that it’s all about Earth’s magnetic field. It seems that dogs like to poop facing either North or South, and they go in circles to orientate their internal compass.
26. Dogs Don’t Like Hugs
Sorry, but as much as you like to ooch your pooch, dogs can feel trapped and stressed when receiving big hugs, especially if they’re tight. They can adapt and get used to smothering hugs, but it’s against their nature and they may just be tolerating it because they love you.
27. ‘Dog Years’ is Different Based on Breed
Most of us know the old “seven dog years for one human year” adage, but the reality is a little different. Depending on the breed, a natural life span for a dog can vary from 9 years to 17 years. Larger dogs tend to have shorter life spans as they age faster, whereas smaller dogs live longer.
28. Petting Your Pup Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
A lot of research has been conducted on this, and it turns out that petting a puppy can lower your blood pressure by as much as 10%. This health benefit is reciprocal, as the dog also experiences a drop in blood pressure.
29. Dogs Have Three Eyelids
Say what? That’s right, three. The top and bottom lids are the standard expectation, but dogs have a third eyelid called the “nictitating membrane” in the corner of each eye. Its purpose is to remove dust and mucus from their corneas. You might catch a glimpse of it if your dog wakes up suddenly as it shuts while they sleep.
And you might be interested in reading about Why do Dogs Wink?
30. There’s a Beatles Song Just For Dogs
Specifically, “A Day in the Life.” Paul McCartney said in an interview that at the end of the song, they included a frequency only dogs can hear. Music and sounds can calm anxiety, so why not play the song for your pup and see how they react at the end?
31. There’s a Dog Mayor in California
A little town called Idyllwild in California elected Max the Golden Retriever as their mayor in 2012. The town is non-incorporated and doesn’t have a human mayor, so Idyllwild Animal Rescue Friends (ARF) funded the pet mayoral election. Any pet was able to run for office, but Max won the first official election. It’s as American as the 4th of July.
32. Obesity is the Number 1 Health Problem in Dogs
More than half the dogs in the US are overweight because of overfeeding, too many calories, too little exercise, and too many table scraps. Being obese is just as unhealthy for dogs as it is for humans and can cause knock-on health problems and even shorten their lifespan.
33. The Survivors of the Titanic Include Three Dogs
When the ship sank in 1912, there was a disastrous loss of life. Luckily for three pups traveling in first class, they were tiny enough to be snuck into the lifeboats with their owners, according to historian J. Joseph Edgette. Two of the dogs were Pomeranians, and the other was a Pekingese.
34. Chocolate is Poisonous to Dogs
This is because dogs can’t digest theobromine, which is found in cacao. The darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine concentration. Once ingested, it creates a toxic buildup in their system that can prove deadly. It takes several hours to get to this point once eaten, so the sooner the vet can get it out, the better your pup will fare.
35. Lassie Was the First in the Animal Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1969, her legacy began with the novel “Lassie Come Home” by Eric Knight, which was then adapted into a feature film. Several more films followed, as well as a television series called “Lassie.” She might be fictional, but her popularity earned her this coveted spot in the Animal Hall of Fame.
37. There are Approximately 900 Million Dogs Worldwide
That’s…a lot of dogs. According to the most recent estimates, anyway. About 75%-85% of these are free-range, and 200 million or so are strays, according to the World Health Organization. Many countries require pets to be registered, with France having the highest dog-to-human ratio of 17 to 100.
38. Thomas Jefferson Created a Dog Tax
In Jefferson’s day, dogs would kill or maim sheep and livestock, so he began to tax their owners due to the high price of wool. He didn’t like dogs at all at this point but came to admire them eventually and even got his own Briard that he called Buzzy.
39. The Oldest Dog Was 29 Years Old
An Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey retains this title, though he was born over a century ago. From 1910 to 1939, Bluey lived in Victoria, Australia, with his beloved owner Les Hall. He died at 29 years and 5 months old, as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.
40. Newfoundlands Have Webbed Feet
You read that right. What’s more, their coat is water-resistant, so they’re the ideal doggy lifeguards. This may be because they were bred to rescue people from drowning and help fishermen. This instinct has survived because many Newfoundland owners claim their pet tries to “save” them when they go swimming.
41. Dogs Can Tell Time
Not precisely, but very accurately with training or routine. They understand lengths of time, often to the point that they learn when their mealtime or walk-time is if it happens regularly at a certain time of day.
42. The Saluki is the World’s Oldest Dog Breed
For thousands of years, this slim breed was the hunting hound of royalty. They’re very strong and have fantastic balance despite their thin figures, making them perfect for finding and flushing out hunting prey. This breed is also very independent and loyal to their family.
43. Dogs Ride the Subway in Moscow
Russian dogs have cottoned on to the convenience of public transport. As many as 35,000 strays live in the capital city, and they’ve learned how to hop on and hop off the Metro to find food. Commuters have become so used to seeing dogs on the train they barely notice it anymore.
44. Dogs can Sniff and Breathe at the Same Time
Being able to smell is such an important part of a dog’s survival that evolution has designed their nasal cavity to be able to hold smells while still breathing in and out. This way, they won’t lose hold of any important odor without having to hold their breath.
45. Dogs Sleep Curled Up Due to Instinct
It’s adorable, but also just practical from your dog’s perspective. Hardwired in their DNA is the instinct to protect their vulnerable internal organs from predators while sleeping, hence why they curl up to enjoy a nap.
46. The Largest Dog Ever Was a Mastiff
According to Guinness World Records, the largest dog ever was an Old English Mastiff named Zorba. In 1989 he weighed a whopping 343 pounds and was 8 feet 3 inches long from his nose to the end of his tail. People who saw him in person described him as the size of a small donkey.
47. More than 50% of US Presidents Owned Dogs
Americans sure love their dogs, and so do their leaders. More than half of the US presidents have owned at least one dog, with Calvin Coolidge being the proud owner of twelve. That’s a lot of kibble!
48. All Dogs Descended From Wolves
It might be hard to connect the dots between a wolf and a pug, but genetically they are related. Over the centuries, dogs with similar traits (size, muzzle shape, coloring, etc.) were bred together until the desired features were attained and they became established new breeds.
49. Xylitol Can Be Fatal to Dogs
It’s popular with dieting humans, but don’t let your dog have any. It causes hypoglycemia in canines as their pancreas confuses it with real sugar, which leads to higher insulin levels and plummeting blood sugar levels. Even small amounts can have devastating effects like seizures and liver failure, including death.
50. Dogs Sniff Each Other’s Backsides for Information
It’s a traditional doggy “hello” to us, but for them, it’s a way of checking out many things about another furry friend. They have scent glands on their rears, and a sniff will tell them the sex, health, diet, mood, and much more about the dog they’re sniffing than we can imagine.
51. Don’t Stick Your Hand in a Dog’s Face to Introduce Yourself
It may be friendly and natural for us to do this, but it can stress out or alienate the dog from you instead. You’re better off letting the dog approach you first and giving you a gentle sniff, then possibly extending your hand for inspection if they show curiosity.
52. Dogs Have Higher Body Temperatures Than We Do
Their body temperatures hover around 101.5ºF, slightly higher than that of humans. This means they heat up faster on a hot summer day and can get heatstroke more easily if out in the sun.
53. Dogs Don’t Hate Cats Specifically
The myth of this rivalry is practically ancient, but there’s not that much truth to it. Dogs instinctively chase smaller speedy things, and that could be a ball, a mouse, or sometimes a cat. But cats and dogs often get along great, especially in the same household, depending on their temperaments and whether you’ve introduced them right.
54. Dogs Respond to Your Tone
It’s not just words that count. Your voice can vary in pitch, rhythm, and tone, which communicates far more effectively sometimes than simple words. A loud, angry voice will make your dog skittish no matter what you say, just as a soft sweet tone will encourage affection.
55. Dogs Get Jealous
It’s not just your imagination. If you’ve been hanging with other canines, your dog might give you the cold shoulder. It turns out they can experience jealousy on the level of a young child, which tracks with their intelligence level.
56. Dog Breath is Unhealthy
It’s common to have a dog with “death breath,” but it could be indicative of health problems or dental issues. Very stinky breath should be a warning sign to get your dog to the vet for a teeth cleaning pronto.
57. A Tail Wag Doesn’t Always Mean Your Dog is Happy
Wagging is something we associate with dogs being happy. But sometimes a wagging tail can mean your dog is feeling frightened, insecure, or even aggressive. The meaning depends on many subtle differences in the wag itself. So if you see a German Shepherd wagging its tail, don’t jump in to pet it just yet.
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