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10 fun facts about dogs

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Think you’ve got your pet pooch all figured out? Then check out these fun dog facts and tips to see how well you really know them.

By Ashley Murphy

Dog Fun Fact #1: Dogs love us too!

While others mammals can experience love, fear, anxiety, and pleasure, none appear to do it as subtly as our canine friends. What’s more, they seem especially attuned to responding to human emotions. And if you're convinced that your dog loves you, then you're probably right. After somehow managing to get dogs to sit in an MRI scanner, Professor Gregory Bern of Emory University showed them pictures of their owners. The dog's brains lit up with pleasure at the sight of their owners and further experiments revealed a similar response to human odours. But they may be loving us for selfish reasons. Once a puppy realises how friendly we are, they quickly learn that attaching themselves to us is their best chance of long-term survival.

Dog Fun Fact #2: Dogs have two noses

You probably know how sensitive your dog's nose is, but did you know that they have two noses? It’s called the vomeronasal organ and its hidden between the nostrils and the roof of the mouth. Nobody knows exactly what it does, but based on studies of cats and other carnivores, it's probably used to sniff those lovely scent-marks left by their doggy mates.

Dog Fun Fact #3: Dogs may look guilty, but they really aren’t

You’ve seen that look before - head down, the big puppy dog eyes - but I’m sorry to say that your dog doesn't really care about the fresh poo melting into your expensive new carpet. Elaine Henly is a lecturer in animal behaviour and she suggests that although a dog can experience primary emotions like fear, guilt is simply to complex for them to understand. They're more likely to be responding to your body language. They still know they've done wrong, but they’re more worried about punishment than the cost of hiring a carpet cleaner for the weekend.

 

Dog Fun Fact #4: Your dog is a bowl half full or a bowl half empty kinda guy

Just like their owners, dogs can either have pessimistic or an optimistic outlook on life. In recent studies, some dogs were keen to sniff around an area where there was a 50/50 chance of food, while others just couldn't see the point. However, it could be a result of nurture rather than nature. A study by the University of Sydney found that many of the optimists were pets of professional trainers and breeders. But don’t worry if your pooch is a bowl half empty kind of pooch - it could well be a sign of its wisdom. As Mark Twain once said, “the man who is a pessimist before he is 48 knows too much; if he's an optimist after that, he knows too little.”

Dog Fun Fact #5: Doggy politics

In 2012 the small town of Idyllwild, California, elected a golden retriever named Max as Mayor.  He won over two-thirds of the vote and has recently secured his sixth term in office. His duties include attending community events, promoting his local community, and speaking on behalf of his constituents. But Max isn't the only pup to hold high office. In 2016 a pitbull named Brynn was voted in as Mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, while Duke the dog was re-elected as mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota for five years running!

It has yet to be confirmed if any of the incumbents are planning a run against Trump in the 2020 presidential elections.

Dog Fun Fact #6: Puppies can still hear the call of the wild

If a puppy doesn't come into contact with humans during its first three months it can quickly turn feral, although the politically correct term is “free-ranging dogs.” This is basically what happened to the Australian Dingos. When the first British colonist arrived in Australia, Dingos still lived with the indigenous tribes. But the Dingos obviously didn't like the smell of these newcomers and soon made a hasty retreat into the outback. Given how it turned out for a lot of the natives, you’ve got to say it was a pretty smart move. Staying away from wild dogs would be another one.

Dog Fun Fact #7: Your dogs OCD might be worse than yours

Scientists have discovered that dogs can suffer from a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. CCD - Canine Compulsive Disorder - displays similar symptoms,  responds to the same medications, and appears to have a genetic basis. So if you notice that Max has been chasing his tail a bit more than usual, you might want to take him to a vet.

Dog Fun Fact #8: Your dog only knows one way to poop

A study has shown that dog poop “with the body being aligned along the north-south axis.” In other words, dogs appear to have an inbuilt compass and they always face north before they start pooping.  Scientists spent two years studying 70 dogs, 1893 defecations, 5582 urinations, but nobody could figure out why dogs do this. 

Dog Fun Fact #9: Dogs and their owners often look alike

Studies have shown that dogs and their owners really do look alike. Michael  Roy, a psychologist from the University of California, took photos of dogs and their owners separately and then asked a group of volunteers to match them up. The volunteers were given no clues, but they still managed to accurately match the dog to the owner. Experts think it may be down to genetics. Humans are programmed to be attracted to things that look similar to themselves, including our dogs.

Dog Fun Fact #10: Your dog is as smart as a two-year-old

On average, dogs can understand around 250 word and gestures - that's the same amount as a two-year-old infant. In fact, their ability to read humans gestures is better than our closest relatives - chimpanzees and bonobos. But the title of smartest dog of all time might belong to Chaser, a border collie from Brooklyn, New York. Chaser knows more than 1,200 words, and even understands complex grammatical concepts like adverbs, adjectives, and prepositions. I can think of plenty of humans who still struggle with those!