Ah, dogs. They are humankind’s best friend, of course, but there’s so much more to our furry friends than just that. They’re eternal companions, sources of joy and happiness (and occasionally frustration!), and clever creatures that are often capable of far more than we give them credit for. Of course, there’s still a lot we don’t know or understand about dogs, and even if you think you know our canine buddies, you might be surprised. Here are 10 fun facts about dogs that you might not have known!
1. Dogs can smell health issues
We’re starting off with something that makes dogs truly amazing: some of them can actually smell health issues in humans. When humans are suffering from certain diseases, they give off subtly different aromas. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, so they’re able to detect those subtle changes and alert us to them, often leading to diagnoses of medical conditions we might otherwise have missed. Who would have thought that dogs could be doctors as well as pets?
2. Jazz calms them down
The next time your dog is feeling anxious and nothing is working to soothe them, try playing them some jazz. A rather wonderful dog relaxation experiment (which we’d kill to have taken part in) played different genres of music to dogs, and they responded best to folk music, followed closely by jazz and classical. If you’re a John Martyn fan or you love some Ornette Coleman, try playing these artists to your dog! Just try to avoid anything by Megadeth or Metallica, because they don’t like heavy metal.
3. Dogs have unique nose prints
It’s a scientific fact that no two fingerprints are alike, but did you know that this also applies to dogs’ “nose prints”? It’s true – if you covered a dog’s nose in paint (which, by the way, you should not do) and pressed their nose down on a piece of paper, you would see that no two dogs’ nose prints are the same. Of course, we wouldn’t recommend using this as a method to identify your dog, but hey, it’s pretty neat nonetheless, wouldn’t you agree?
4. Dogs catch contagious yawns too
Have you ever been in a room with a person, yawned, and seen them yawn as a result of you yawning? This is a well-documented phenomenon that some have theorised is due to a need to synchronise group activity, but did you know that dogs also yawn when we yawn? It’s true – a contagious yawn can also be picked up by a dog, and a dog is also around four times more likely to yawn if it’s someone they know doing the yawning. Try it next time you yawn!
5. Petting dogs is good for you
If you’re feeling stressed and you need to unwind, then research suggests it’s a good idea to pet a dog. When you stroke your dog, it releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is the “bonding hormone” – it’s the hormone that gets released when a mother holds a newborn child, for instance. If your dog is upset or a little stressed out, petting them can also help them to relax, so it’s a process that has two-way benefits, which is great considering how much fun it is.
6. Dogs can show kindness
You’ve probably thought of your dog as a wonderful, kind little creature, but you might actually be onto something when you think that. A study has suggested that dogs might be capable of “prosocial” behaviours, which are behaviours effected with a view to helping a group or another individual rather than just yourself. In the study, dogs were observed sharing treats with other dogs without any clear benefits to themselves, and this tendency increased when the two dogs knew each other. Aww.
7. Greyhounds are faster than you think
A greyhound can reach top speeds of around 35 mph, which is ridiculously fast for an animal. Of course, it doesn’t come close to the cheetah, which still holds the land speed record for an animal at speeds of around 70 mph. However, a cheetah isn’t capable of holding onto that speed for a protracted period of time. Cats hunt in bursts; they don’t give protracted chase, but rather leap onto their prey, so they exhibit bursts of energy. Greyhounds, however, can maintain speeds of 35 mph for a long time, so they could theoretically outrun cheetahs.
8. Border collies are the smartest dogs…
If you have a border collie, you’ll probably already know this, but border collies are generally considered to be the most intelligent dogs around. A border collie was once shown to be able to recognise more than a thousand words, and border collies are also capable of solving extremely rudimentary puzzles if there are treats involved. Suffice it to say that if you have a border collie as a best friend, then you’ve lucked out with the smartest dog breed in the world.
9. …and Afghan hounds are considered the dumbest
There’s a general perception that Afghan hounds are the “dumbest” dog breed. This is largely because Afghan hounds don’t respond well to traditional methods of dog training, which you’ll probably know if you’ve got one. However, as the breed’s stunning beauty suggests, Afghan hounds are simply too proud to want to do whatever you tell them to do with no incentive. Try getting on this breed’s good side and you’ll see it can be just as loyal as any other dog breed.
10. They get jealous
Here’s something to bear in mind for our closing tip. Did you know that dogs can actually get jealous? It’s true – a study found that when humans interacted with a fake dog in front of a real one, the real dog tried to intercept the interaction, whining and barking at the human so that they would show the real dog attention instead. This is an important thing to bear in mind if you welcome a child into your family; your dog isn’t just being awkward, they’re genuinely worried you don’t want to show them love anymore. Show them that isn’t the case and give them an extra-big cuddle!