10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dogs

Dogs are awesome, and chances are you’re not the only one who thinks so. In fact, about 78 million households in the U.S. own dogs as pets, making canines one of the most popular choices for pets according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). But, with so many dogs on the market, how do you know which one will be best suited to your lifestyle? As part of our series of how-to blogs, we’ll be covering topics related to dog health care & wellness that will help you better understand what it takes to keep your dog happy and healthy.

1. The first domesticated dogs were in East Asia


While some dog species look like they’re more closely related to wolves than other species, DNA analysis shows that all dogs are descended from one common ancestor. Researchers think that first domesticated dog was in East Asia around 32,000 years ago. Even after humans moved out of Asia and into Europe, Middle East and Africa, humans kept their connection with these early domesticated dogs. Today you can find dogs living in almost every corner of the world; there’s even an isolated population of Australian dingoes living in New Guinea! According to most scientists and dog experts, only two types of dogs—the modern-day dingo (Australian wild dog) and domestic dogs—exist today. All other canine species are just variations or subspecies of these two animals.

2. Dogs need meat in their diet, not grain


While they may look like carnivores, dogs are actually omnivores. That means that a large part of their natural diet is carbohydrates, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, it is important to remember that it also isn’t what they would choose as a meal if given a choice between meat and veggies. Because of their ancestral relationship with wolves, dogs can naturally digest meat better than anything else. And even though their teeth and digestive tract can process vegetables too, you don’t want to make them your first choice for food, because doing so deprives them of those vital nutrients from meat—particularly fat—that keep them healthy and happy.

3. A study showed you can train your dog to use the toilet


If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to train your dog to use a toilet, wonder no more. A study out of Brazil found that dogs are capable of learning how to control their bladders long enough to urinate on command. The study was completed in 2007, but researchers at Baylor College of Medicine just published a review paper in Scientific Reports. Here’s how it worked: Researchers selected six mixed-breed dogs between 12 and 24 months old with no prior training in using a toilet. Three weeks before beginning training, each dog was fitted with a special collar equipped with sensors and motion detectors for monitoring urine flow and signals from muscles as they were about to urinate.

4. The average age of death for a dog is about 12 years old


If you want to know how long your dog will live, then think about these facts. The average age of death for a dog is about 12 years old. This means if you buy a one-year-old Labrador puppy, that dog could easily make it to his thirteenth birthday. Whether or not he makes it that far, though, depends on what kind of care he gets throughout his life. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your dog healthy and happy!

5. Certain breeds are smarter than others


Different dog breeds are known for having different levels of intelligence. Of course, it’s not possible to tell how smart a dog is just by looking at them, but some generalizations can be made based on an individual breed’s size and their behavior. For example, larger dogs tend to have higher IQs than smaller dogs because they’re smarter in order to survive. The way a dog behaves can also speak volumes about their intelligence level; if your dog doesn’t listen to commands or is constantly running around everywhere you go then it’s fair to say that your pooch is lacking in brain power.

6. They have limited night vision


If you want to sneak up on your dog at night, chances are he won’t be able to see you. Compared to humans, dogs have limited night vision. Their ability to see in low light is better than ours (about four times better), but they don’t see as well in complete darkness. In fact, when it comes to identifying objects in low-light environments, dogs have a harder time than cats and even humans do. That’s because their visual centers work on shapes rather than color—so while they may not need lights to navigate outside at night, if you turn out all of your lights after bedtime they may find it hard to navigate inside as well!

7. Their long ears help them balance better on ice


Have you ever noticed that dogs don’t seem to slip on ice? It’s not a coincidence. Their thick fur and especially their long ears help them to balance better on slick surfaces than humans can. Of course, there is no use in trying to mimic these skills—just enjoy knowing that your canine friends know what they are doing. And try not to laugh too hard when you see them tip-toeing around your frozen yard or driveway!

8. They do dream when they sleep


Recent research indicates that dogs not only dream when they sleep, but they can recognize themselves in dreams and are upset when they wake up and realize that their paws aren’t working. A study by Allistair S. Blair at Chicago’s Northwestern University found that dogs don’t dream about random things; instead, their brain activity shows specific patterns similar to humans. The study says dogs might experience emotions just like humans do—and it isn’t difficult to tell when your pup is happy or sad because of their body language. This discovery demonstrates that humans share with other mammals a sense of self, Blair told New Scientist magazine in 2010 after completing his research.

9. A large portion of their brain is taken up by smell


There’s a reason why dogs always know when you’ve been bad or good—it’s because they have more scent receptors than we do. Around 30 percent of their brain is devoted to processing smells. That means there are at least 200 million olfactory receptors in your pooch. Ours, by comparison, account for just 5 percent of our total brain power. The more smelling power a dog has, of course, the better its chances of survival and passing on its genes.

10. Puppies are born without teeth


Unlike humans, puppies are born without teeth. Puppies aren’t ready to eat solid food until they are about seven to ten days old and in order to chew, they must first develop their incisors. At around three weeks of age, puppies begin teething. Their teeth start breaking through at different times; their lower canines will be among the first followed by their upper canines and then lower incisors. Because all of a puppy’s permanent teeth don’t appear at once, they will continue teething throughout much of their adult life—and that is why it is important for them to have plenty of things to chew on when they are young!