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The 5 Biggest Myths About Dogs and Where They Came From

Golden Retriever Dog Nose

Over the years there have been a number of myths about dogs. Some have been around for centuries and others are more recent. In either case here are 5 of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to our furry family members.


1. Dog Mouths are Cleaner than Human Mouths

Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions that seems to be sticking around for the long haul is that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. While we would all like to believe this since we often let our four-legged pals give us “kisses” this is just simply not the case.

Smiling Dog

Scientists have been able to prove that dogs have just as much bacteria in their mouths as humans, however, the bacteria are of a much different variety. Some believe that this myth stems from the canine habit of licking a wound. People at some point must have surmised that a dog’s mouth was cleaner as it seemed that after licking the wound it would heal faster.

2. A Warm Dry Nose Means a Dog is Sick

At some point people concluded that a sick dog has a warm and dry nose while a healthy dog has a wet and cold nose. Like many wives tales the origins of this myth is unknown, but still likely rooted in some factual truths.

Husky Dog Nose

For instance, one symptom of advanced distemper is the thickening of the nose and foot pads. In this case the nose and pads of feet become hard and dry. When distemper was more common among dogs people took a cool, wet nose to be a good sign that dogs didn’t have distemper. Thanks to modern medicine and vaccinations distemper is a lot less common.

3. Dogs Can Only See in Black and White

People once believed that dogs could only see in black and white. And many still believe this is the case, but in actuality dogs can see color, just not the way humans do. Based solely on the types of cones in a dog’s retina they can probably see colors more in the blue spectrum.

Dog in black and white

Some veterinarians describe canine color vision as similar to that of red-green colorblindness in humans, but it is still not exactly the same. Most veterinarians agree that dogs see mostly in blue, green-yellow, yellow, and shades of gray. This common misconception probably arose prior to our understanding of the canine eye and the functions of the cones.

4. Dogs Age Seven Years for Every Human Year

This age old myth seems to still come around, and yet when you sit back and think about it, it doesn’t really make sense considering that dogs can reproduce well before age 1. Plus, that would mean a 15 year old dog would be 105 in dog years which isn’t necessarily the case given that plenty of dogs live active and healthy senior lives.

Although dogs do age at a faster rate than humans, that faster rate tends to occur mostly in early life and seems to slow with age.

Chocolate Lab Dog Puppy

For example, a 1 year old dog is a lot like a teenager, but an 8 year old dog is more like a middle aged human.

More important than pinpointing a human to dog year ratio is taking into consideration the size and breed of a dog as these factors have a lot more to do with aging rate and lifespan. For instance, many small breeds like Yorkies or Chihuahuas are known to live 15-20 years while larger breeds like Great Danes only live 7-10 years. In all likelihood someone determined this estimate by comparing the lifespan of people to the lifespan of dogs.

5. A Wagging Tail Means a Happy Dog

As children we are often told that dogs wag their tails when they are happy; however, this is a misconception and oversimplification of key body language. In fact, tail wags and body language in general can get quite complex. Tail wagging is just one of many ways dogs can communicate with us and other dogs.

small dog in sweater reaching for a treat

Although it is often true that tail wags can be indicative of happiness it can also signify fear, anxiety, or even a precursor to aggression. Rather than looking simply at your dog’s tail try paying attention to her overall body language to determine her mood. 

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