You probably know most of all there is to know about the person you consider your best friend. You know their favorite songs, their favorite foods, and even those deep, dark secrets they only let slip after a few brews and a moment of vulnerability.
That goes double for man’s best friend. They’re just dogs, after all, so they can’t have any secrets — right? Um, wrong! Here are some of the most fascinating facts about your canine friends that will make you side-eye your pooch immediately.
1. Dalmatians are famous for their spots, but puppies aren’t born that way. Their signature black patches don’t develop until they’re roughly two-to-three weeks old. Still, according to AKC spokesperson, Lisa Peterson, “The Dalmatian is actually the only spotted breed. Other breeds, like the Bluetick Coonhound, have a pattern called ticking.”
2. Dogs don’t curl up while sleeping just to look cute or even to necessarily feel more comfortable. This tendency is a residual action from their wild instincts to protect their vital organs at night when they’re vulnerable.
3. Some recent studies found dogs try to “go to the bathroom” in such a way that they’re aligned with the earth’s magnetic field. Both female and male dogs poop in a north or south direction, but only females prefer to urinate that way, too. Scientists are still trying to figure out why they do this.
4. The idea that dogs only see in black and white is a total myth. They can actually perceive a wide range of colors, although it’s more limited than the spectrum humans see. Dogs see shades of blue, yellow, and green. These colors can create shades of grayish brown, dark yellow, light yellow, grayish yellow, light blue and dark blue.
5. Dogs hear sounds from just about any direction because they have no fewer than 18 different muscles in each of their ears. They also move their ears in order to express emotion: when a dog cocks its head to listen, it does that to help it better process sounds coming from far away.
6. Most people know dogs have wet noses, but what they may not know is this layer of moisture allows them to absorb scent chemicals, amplifying their sense of smell. Beagles, German shepherds, and dachshunds have thee strongest senses of smell.
7. Similarly, as humans, we have only about 6 million olfactory receptors. Dogs, on the other hand, can have up to 300 million olfactory receptors. In other words, their noses are estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than ours!
8. The reason dogs run around in circles before resting is because it’s part of an instinctual “nesting” ritual passed down from their wolf ancestors. Both wolves and dogs belong to the canis genus. They’re just making themselves feel more at home!
9. With about 75 million dogs in the entire country, the United States has a higher dog population than any other nation on the face of the Earth. Labrador retrievers are the most popular and, according to the America Kennel Club, have held that top spot for 24 years.
10. The wagging of a dog’s tail can mean much more than happiness. Depending on the wag pattern, it can be an expression of several different things like curiosity, nervousness, playfulness, and even aggression.
11. Dogs are able to “see” more clearly by using their whiskers. These whiskers are called their vibrissae, and the follicles located at the base of each whisker are actually jam-packed with nerve endings. This allows them to sense the slightest changes in air pressure, which even gives them a special sort of “night vision!”
12. The Norwegian lundehund (also known as the Norwegian puffin dog) usually has six toes on each paw, which is two more than the standard four toes that most dogs have! The Great Pyrenees breed also has six toes.
13. Dogs are able to sense important changes in human bodies. That’s why there are number of service dogs, such as seizure alert dogs, who can help patients during focal onset seizures. The science behind how dogs can do this is still something being researched.
14. There was once a service dog named Kirsch who, after accompanying his owner to all his classes, received an honorary degree in mental health counseling. It was a proud day for both Kirsch and his owner!
15. Petting your dog is actually great for your physical health! When you do it, your blood pressure lowers to a greater degree than it would during interactions with other humans. If something as simple as petting a dog helps keep humans alive longer, there should be a pup in every home!
16. Barking is just one form of vocal communication that dogs use to try and express themselves. A breed of hunting dog, known as the basenji, doesn’t bark. Because of the unusual shape of their voice boxes, they actually yodel. It’s been said to sound like they’re saying “baroo!”
17. Dogs lick their noses because the roof of their mouths have the ability to sense different scents. They actually transfer scent particles to their mouth directly from their nose! While human beings have up to 10,000 taste bud receptors, dogs only have about 1,000. They rely on both their nose and mouth to tell them what they need to know about their food.
18. Newfoundland dogs have webbed feet to make it easier for them to swim! In fact, their superior swimming abilities may be their most defining trait — besides their obvious strength and size! Still, they’re known for being exceptionally gentle with children, babies, and even with other dogs and cats.
19. The bottom of a dog’s foot often smells a bit like a bag of corn chips. That’s because their sweat glands, which are only found on their feet and nose, have a natural yeast-like smell because of the bacteria.
20. Dogs often suffer from separation anxiety when their owners leave. One thing you can do to help reassure them is to leave a piece of clothing with your scent on it for them to sniff. Another popular method of helping your dog cope when you are out of the house is to leave a little bit of classical music playing for them.
21. Dogs often get jealous when they see their humans showing too much affection for anything, or anyone, other than themselves. They just love you way too much for their own good!
22. Men are three times more likely to get a woman’s phone number if he has a dog with him. That’s adorable, of course, but that does leave open the possibility that she might just want to date him for his dog…
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23. Seven-year-old Duke the dog was the elected mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota! And he won by a landslide. Really, though, who wouldn’t want this sweet little guy as their mayor? Naps and treats are always on the agenda, and every mayoral press conference is guaranteed to be adorable.
24. Finally, Orient the German shepherd led his owner, Bill Irwin — who happened to be blind — through the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. That’s a total 2,100 miles! That made Bill the first blind man to complete the hike!