Dogs are pretty amazing creatures, and we continue to learn more about them all the time. Our Pioneer Animal Hospital team is here to share six of the most interesting dog facts that will leave you with a greater appreciation for your canine companion.

#1: Dogs can sniff at the same time as they breathe

Needless to say, dogs sniff a lot. They rely on their sense of smell for everything—finding food, avoiding danger, and communicating with other canines. Unlike humans, a dog’s nose is specially designed to allow them to separate air. Some air goes to the olfactory sensing area (i.e., the area that distinguishes scents), while the rest is used solely for breathing. This means that smells can stay in their nose at the same time air moves in and out of their lungs. 

#2: A dog’s nose is like a human’s fingerprint

Like humans, who have a highly individualized fingerprint—estimated to be one in 64 billion—dog nose prints are unique, too. Every dog’s nose has its own pattern, meaning no two dogs have the same nose.

#3: Dogs are pretty darn smart

You already know your dog is smart, but now you can back it up! While all dogs are different, they have mental abilities close to a human child around 2 years of age, according to several intelligence and behavior studies. They may not be able to speak back, but they can understand quite a bit of what you say to them. 

  • Language The average dog can learn to recognize around 165 words, including signals and gestures, and some ultra-intelligent breeds—border collies, poodles, and German shepherds—can learn more than that. 
  • Emotions — Dogs can show basic emotions, like happiness, anger, and disgust, but despite what their facial expression suggests, they are not able to express more complex emotions, such as guilt.
  • Math — Dogs have been known to count up to four or five, and have demonstrated a basic understanding of arithmetic, making them mathematically more advanced than a 2-year-old child. Now, if they could only do our taxes! 

#4: Owning a dog improves your health

Owning a dog provides many physical and mental health benefits, including increased opportunities for exercise, getting outside, and socializing. A pet’s companionship can help manage loneliness and depression, and regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels.

In addition to the daily health benefits your dog provides, they can be trained to detect medical conditions in humans, because of their acute sense of smell. Conditions they can sniff out include:

  • Cancer — Studies have shown dogs can sniff out a variety of cancer types, including breast, prostate, bladder, and lung cancer.
  • Low blood sugar — Dogs can detect isoprene, a common natural chemical found in human breath that rises significantly when a person’s blood sugar is low. Organizations train dogs to alert their owner of the condition, and place them with insulin-dependent diabetics. 
  • Seizures — Dogs can detect a scent linked to epileptic seizures and alert their owner to take medication, or to move to a safer location before the seizure begins.

#5: Dogs do dream

If you’ve ever seen your dog twitching or moving their paws while sleeping, you may have wondered if they are dreaming. The answer is yes. Dogs and humans have the same type of slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM), and they can dream during the REM stage. While evidence suggests that dogs do dream, we cannot understand what they dream about—but we hope their dreams are sweet.

#6: Dogs can appreciate color

While dogs cannot see all the colors that humans do, they certainly can appreciate more than black and white. However, they likely don’t see like humans. Differences between humans and dogs include:

  • Rods versus cones — The retina is made of light-sensing cells, including rods and cones. Rods catch movement and work in low light, while cones control color perception and work in bright light. Dogs have more rods than cones in their retina, while humans have more cones than rods. 
  • Types of cones — Humans have three kinds of cones, while dogs only have two types. Each cone type registers a different light wavelength. Dogs lack the red-green cones, which means they can distinguish yellow and blue, but they see red and green items as grey or brown. This explains why your dog may get excited about a yellow toy, but have no interest in the same toy in orange or red. 

Dogs are truly amazing, and our responsibility as their owners is to take the best care of these magnificent beings. Contact our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Pioneer Animal Hospital, so we can provide them with the quality care they deserve.