Canine Science: Curious Facts about Dogs

faces of 30 different dog breeds
Purposely-Bred Dogs

Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years. Here are some interesting science based facts about our four-legged friends that you may not have known.

As a member of the genus ‘Canis’, dogs are evolutionary ancestors of the wolf and were domesticated by humans and later bred for various purposes. Historical evidence suggests that dogs were domesticated somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. Here is a list of the most interesting traits of dogs by category:

Facts about dog anatomy

  • Contrary to popular belief, they do not see in black and white. Dogs have two sensitive cone cells in the retina of their eyes, which means that they can see blue, yellow, and gray, and have trouble with shades from green to red.
  • According to PETA, a couple of dogs and their offspring, if not neutered, could produce 67,000 dogs within six years.
  • A dog’s sense of smell is far more sensitive than that of its human companion. There are between 220 and 300 million odor receptors in the nose of dogs.
  • Dogs are able to track weather changes by sensing differences in air pressure. If your dog is behaving strangely, you may be able to attribute it to an upcoming storm or rain shower.
  • Ramiro Joly-Mascheroni and his colleagues from the University of London found in a 2008 study that a human yawn is contagious to domestic dogs.
  • Dog urine is very acidic and contains ammonia, which can cause corrosion of metal objects.
  • A special membrane in the back of the eye, Tapetum lucidum, helps dogs see better in the dark.
  • A dog can locate the source of a sound in six hundredths of a second using its ears like a radar. Dogs have twice as many ear muscles as their human counterparts.
  • Dogs are sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field and its fluctuations. A study in the journal Frontiers in Zoology suggests that they usually excrete in a north-south direction and align with the axis.
  • Adult dogs usually have around 42 teeth and pups quickly develop 28.
  • Dog nose prints are as unique as human fingerprints and can be used to accurately identify them.

Facts about dog cognition and behavior

  • Canine Researcher Dr. Stanley Coren believes that the average dog can understand up to 165 words, while the smartest dogs can remember up to 250 words.
  • In Russia, some stray dogs have been observed taking the subway to more populous areas in search of food.
  • A study by the New York professor Alexandra Horowitz from 2009 showed that the “guilty dog” look is usually triggered by the dog being scolded by its owner.
  • If you ever notice your dog twitching or moving its paws while you sleep, you can expect it to be dreaming.
  • Dogs don’t just wag their tails when they’re happy. It can also be a sign of fear, insecurity or aggression.
  • Studies suggest that dogs can understand routines. They can be trained to anticipate future events based on past activities, such as daily evening walks or dinners.
  • If your dog is afraid of separation, try leaving some of your worn clothing behind. This can help calm you down.
  • A study by researchers from the University of California suggests that dogs may experience jealousy.
  • Dogs curl up in their sleep to warm themselves up and protect their vital organs from predators.

Working dogs

  • Laika, a mixed breed from Moscow, was the first animal to orbit the earth in November 1957, in the Sputnik 2 spacecraft.
  • The famous St. Bernard breed takes its name from a hospital on the Alpine Great St Bernard Pass in Switzerland. The sanatorium used these gentle giants to rescue the victims from the snow-capped Alps.
  • Dogs can recognize the smell of a number of organic compounds, which can often help them diagnose signs of disease. A 2011 study published in Gut magazine found that a trained Labrador Retriever correctly identified 91 percent of breath samples and 97 percent of stool samples from colon cancer patients.
  • Little Pekingese were used as watchdogs by the Chinese nobility. They were often hidden in the emperor’s sleeves as a line of defense.
  • A drug cartel put a bounty of $30,000 on US customs dogs, Rocky and Barco, because the duo was very successful in patrolling the Mexican border.
  • Contact with dogs can have a therapeutic effect on humans. Research has shown that owning a dog can improve physical and mental health.
  • Dogs can make people live happier and healthier lives. A study by the University of Melbourne suggests that they can boost the immune system and help reduce allergies in children.
  • Bloodhounds can detect smells that are older than 300 hours.

Guinness World Records Dogs

  • Zeus, a Great Dane from Michigan, USA, was named the tallest dog of all time by the Guinness World Records in 2011 (111.8 cm). He died in September 2014 at the age of five.
  • Milly, a female Chihuahua, was classified by the Guinness World Records in February 2013 as the smallest female dog in the world – 9.6 cm. It replaced a 4-inch (10 cm) chihuahua named Boo Boo, which was declared the smallest dog in 2011.
  • Cupcake is the smallest service dog according to Guinness World Records. It’s a female long-haired chihuahua, who measured 15.87 tall, on 08 September 2012.
  • A record breaking jump made by a dog is 191.7 cm. It was achieved by Feather (USA) in Frederick, Maryland, USA, on 14 September 2017.

Facts about specific dog breeds

  • The Cesky Terrier is one of the rarest dog breeds. They originally come from the Czech Republic and were bred for hunting. They are usually 33 centimeters tall.
  • According to the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the World Association of Dog Breeds, there are over 340 recognized dog breeds.
  • Chihuahua takes its name from the state in Mexico where it was discovered.
  • A Norwegian Lundehund usually has six toes on each foot instead of the normal four.
  • Dalmatians are not born with their famous black spots. Puppies have simple, white fur. The spots appear within three to four weeks after birth.
  • The Australian Shepherd, which is usually about 50 to 58 centimeters tall (males), is actually not an Australian breed, but comes from the USA.
  • According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Labrador Retriever was named America’s most popular dog breed for the 29th time in a row in 2019.
  • Greyhounds can reach speeds of over 70.8 km/h.
  • Border collies, the workaholics with good instinct, are considered by some researchers as the smartest breed.
  • Afghan hounds, on the other hand, are considered the breed with the lowest innate intelligence.
  • The Basenji dog breed is the only dog ​​in the world that doesn’t bark. The clever and strong-willed animals giggle or make a yodel sound to let owners know what they have on their minds.

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