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6 unusual dog facts

6 things you never knew about your dog

While you’ve come to know your pet well over the years, there may still be things you don’t know about him. Here are some interesting, extraordinary and unusual facts about dogs that could help to broaden your knowledge even further.

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1

Dogs actually absorb scents to smell things

Chances are that your dog enjoys taking a deep sniff of his surroundings, and with good reason: depending on the breed, a dog’s sense of smell is between a thousand and a million times greater than that of a human. This is especially the case with Bloodhounds, which have 300 million scent receptors – more than any other breed. And, while a dog’s nose can feel a bit slimy to the touch, it’s thought that the wetness of your dog’s nose plays a very useful role in contributing towards this heightened ability. The thin layer of mucus that creates this moisture allows dogs to better absorb even the tiniest of particles that contain a scent, making it even easier for them to detect odours.

2

A wagging tail can have a deeper meaning

If you see your dog’s tail flicking excitedly from side to side, that means he’s feeling happy – right? Not necessarily. Our canine companions also wag their tails to demonstrate feelings including annoyance, fear, anger and sadness and, while other dogs are able to instinctively decipher these, for humans it can take a bit more consideration. Research shows that a dog’s tail wags to the right when he is happy, confident or positive about something, but goes to the left when feeling more scared or concerned. The height of the tail when it’s moving can also indicate your dog’s emotions, too – a raised tail denotes happiness, mid-range conveys inquisitiveness, and low reflects anxiety or insecurity. While the tail can be a great indicator, it’s also important to consider your dog’s simultaneous body language to obtain the full picture of his emotional state. His body leaning forward, for example, can denote he feels threatened, while his body shaking reflects a fearful adrenaline release, and cocking his head to one side shows curiosity.

3

Those paws are made for walking – and a whole lot more

They’re great for supporting your dog as he chases after his favourite ball, but did you know that a dog’s paws are actually rather unique? They’re one of the few areas that aren’t covered by fur, so your dog’s sweat glands are found here; and these also expel moisture when your pooch feels anxious or nervous – just like a human. The little pads (which many dogs love to have massaged!) are predominantly comprised of fatty tissue, which helps stop their paws from getting too cold in snowy conditions, and provides protection when they’re walking on rougher terrains, too. In some breeds, their paws are even more specifically designed to support them in their natural environment. For example, Newfoundlands and Labrador Retrievers have webbed feet to assist them with swimming, while the Norwegian Lundehund is the only dog to have six toes (most have four, some five) – they were originally bred on the rocky cliff coastline of northern Norway to chase away puffins, and the extra toe(s) offered better grip.

4

They have excellent perception of movement

Comparing your eyesight to your dog’s vision is a definite ying and yang situation: where you excel, he falls behind, and vice versa. For example, while humans visually enjoy a full colour palette, the colours that dogs see are limited to tones of yellow, blue and grey, as they have only a fifth of the photoreceptor cells that we do. Yet, while your dog may not be able to see as many colours as you can, he can see more of his surroundings at any one time; a dog’s peripheral vision spans 250 degrees, while ours only reaches 180 degrees. However, dogs can’t perceive details as well as we can, which is why your pet often won’t see his chew toy, even if it’s right in front of him; and an object that appears clear and sharp to you could look blurry to your dog. But he certainly compensates for this in other areas, as he has far better night vision and fantastic perception of direction and speed – making him an ace playmate, among other skills.

5

They love to shake it off

There’s no doubt that you’ve seen your dog shake his fur as he’s come out of water, but does this action actually do anything aside from give you an impromptu shower? The answer is yes, and more than you might think. Research has shown that shaking for mere seconds is all it takes for your dog to remove up to 70% of the water retained by his coat, and his ability to do so is thanks to the fact that furry animals tend to have looser skin, which gains speed faster as it’s whipped around (think of it a bit like a washing machine). In fact, once that shake gets going, it’s incredibly forceful – drops of water can be thrown off at speeds of up to 70 times that of gravity. The motion is an innate instinct in dogs and is a crucial method of survival – especially in cold weather, as it’s essential they stay dry to prevent hypothermia setting in. Getting rid of excess water from their fur as soon as possible is also more energy efficient for your dog, as carrying around all that extra weight takes a lot of effort – carrying just a pound of water and leaving it to evaporate can cause him to use up around 20% of his daily calorie allowance!

6

Dogs can feel jealousy (but not guilt)

Whether you’re showing your other pets some love, or are giving someone else’s dog your attention, studies show that there’s a good chance your dog will feel envious in return. Researchers in America found that dogs are more likely to push or snap at their owner if they feel they’re being excluded from displays of affection. However, your dog won’t feel guilty about it (ditto for those times he chews your favourite pair of shoes). Canine brains aren’t wired to experience this emotion in the same way that humans are, and any ‘remorseful’ look your dog gives you is probably just a learned response to your negative body language.