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.
4. Dogs 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.
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…
Marcellat / Instagram
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. 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!
25. The word “puppy” is a relatively new addition to the English language. A variation on the French word “poupeé,” meaning doll or toy, it caught on in the late 1500s. Before that? Britons referred to baby dogs by the not-so-catchy term “whelps.”
26. Puppies sleep a ton — sometimes up to 20 hours per day — and for good reason. Rest is essential for their developing body and mind. Even when they reach maturity, dogs catch quite a few z’s each day, usually between 12 and 14 hours.
27. Just like humans, young dogs have baby teeth that fall out and eventually get replaced by an adult set. However, there is still no evidence that any kind of dog tooth fairy exists.
28. Depending on the breed, dogs can have vastly different sized litters. Bigger canines usually have bigger litters, as a rule of thumb. A Neapolitan mastiff owns the current record for giving birth to 24 puppies in 2011.
The West Australian / Ian Munro
29. Can dogs inspire great works of art? Hamilton composer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda would certainly say so. His stage ballad “Dear Theodosia” started out as an ode to his dog Tobillo, a stray pup he adopted in 2011.
30. If you’ve ever met a newborn puppy, you’ll notice that their eyes and ears don’t open for a couple of weeks. This is because, compared to other mammals, gestation periods for dogs are pretty short. As a result, puppies are born not quite fully developed!
31. Rolling Stones guitar hero Keith Richards smuggled a number of things past customs, cough cough, but his cutest contraband was a puppy. After sneaking it past British authorities, he named the pooch Ratbag and treated him to a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.
32. Sure, your dog is friendly, but have you ever worried that they’d like any old stranger just as much as you? One 2005 study will put your mind at ease. Researchers observed that canines are most responsive to their owners, proving there is a definite bond.
33. Sports teams aren’t the only ones with dog mascots. The Spanish city of Bilbao is synonymous with West Highland Terriers thanks to Puppy, a gigantic sculpture outside the Guggenheim Museum. The statue weighs 17 tons and is covered in living flowers.
34. Just like in humans, yawns are contagious among mature dogs — probably as an embedded form of social empathy. Curiously enough, this isn’t the case for puppies! They are undeveloped enough to not react to their owners’ yawns at all.
35. For famed novelist John Steinbeck, a dog really did eat his homework. In 1936, his teething puppy tore apart his lone manuscript for Of Mice and Men. The frustrated author had to rewrite those chapters, much to the delight (or chagrin) of students everywhere.
36. Even though puppies from the same litter are similar, it’s extremely rare to find identical twin canines. The first confirmed case didn’t come until 2016 when a South African veterinarian determined two pups were genetically identical from sharing the same placenta.
37. But twin puppies aren’t the only genetic canine copies out there. Scientists successfully cloned the first dog in 2005, and that practice has expanded into a niche industry of cloning families’ beloved pets — for the hefty price of $50,000.
38. It’s no coincidence that dogs seem sadder whenever you’re eating. They’ve evolutionarily adapted to raise their eyebrows and make their eyes bigger to improve their chances of guilting humans into tossing a scrap of food their way.
39. Seeing eye dogs aren’t the only employed pooches out there. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has trained a puppy named Riley to sniff out species of moths and beetles that destroy priceless artwork.
40. Attention Dalmatian owners: don’t freak out when your puppies are born without any of the trademark spots! Those only start to pop up as the breed gets older. And Dalmatian puppies aren’t the only ones who’ve surprised owners with their coats…
41. In 2017, several dogs in the UK made headlines for giving birth to green puppies. Was this a rare mutation? Were the pups celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? No, it turns out their fur was temporarily dyed by biliverdin, a pigment naturally found in dog placentas.
42. Don’t freak out if your boss catches you scrolling through dog photos at work. A 2012 study concluded that looking at pictures of cute animals can actually help you concentrate afterward.
43. There was one warm and fuzzy result of the Cold War. Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev knew that President John F. Kennedy was curious about Strelka, the Russian dog that went into space. As a gift, he sent JFK one of Strelka’s puppies. The Kennedys named her Pushinka, after the Russian word for “fluffy.”
Wikimedia Commons / Cecil W. Stoughton
44. JFK’s one-time political rival Richard Nixon also had a historical puppy moment. While running for Vice President in 1952, Tricky Dick came under fire for using campaign contributions for personal use. He denied these claims in a televised speech and said that the only gift he accepted was their family dog, Checkers.