Common Dog Myths Debunked


by Chandra Cushman

Humane Society of Central Arizona

Here at the Humane Society of Central Arizona, we often hear a lot of myths about cats and dogs. So, I decided to do some research and touch base on some of the most common myths about cats and dogs. This week, I’ll focus on dog myths.

1. Dogs are color blind.

The truth: Dogs do see in color. However, they see differently than most people do and are less able to distinguish between colors. Veterinary ophthalmologists have determined that dogs see like people who have red/green color blindness. Dogs’ eyes have receptors for blue and green shades, but not for red shades. As a result, it appears that dogs cannot easily distinguish between yellow, green and red, but they can identify different shades of blue, purple and gray. Color is only one of many visual stimuli that dogs detect in their environment. Brightness, contrast, and especially motion, are extremely important to a dog’s interpretation of what it sees.

2. If a dog’s nose is warm, it means it’s sick.

The truth: If a dog has a dry or warm nose, it means that he has a dry or warm nose. A dry nose or a mildly warm nose has nothing to do with the overall health of a dog.

3. If a dog is wagging its tail, it is happy.

The truth: In many cases, a dog that is wagging its tail is happy, or at least is expressing excitement or pleasure. Tail-wagging certainly does express a strong state of emotion, much like a smile does in people. However, just like a human smile, a dog’s wagging tail does not necessarily reflect happiness or something positive. Dogs frequently wag their tails when they are agitated, irritated, tense, anxious, annoyed, frightened, angry or aggressive. Interestingly, researchers have found that dogs do not normally wag their tails when they are alone, even if they apparently are happy or are in a pleasant situation. Tail-wagging seems to be a behavior that is reserved for times when the dog is in the company of others.

4. A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth.

The truth: A dog’s mouth is not “cleaner” than a person’s mouth. Dog saliva can be toxic to some bacteria, but it carries its own population of bacteria and other infectious organisms. That population is just different from the assortment of bacteria and other “germs” in the human mouth, based largely upon differences in diet. There is a reason for the term, “dog breath.” People with weakened immune systems and young children probably should not have direct contact with dog or cat saliva.

5. One year of a dog’s life is equal to 7 years of a human’s life.

The truth: Contrary to popular belief, there is no exact formula to gauge how much a dog develops or ages in comparison to so-called “people years.” Aging is as individual for dogs as it is for people. Taking a dog’s age and multiplying it by 7 is an overly simplistic formula and does not reflect a dog’s actual developmental status. A more accurate rough guide is as follows:

• 1-year-old-dog equals a 15-year-old human.

• 2-year-old-dog equals a 24-year-old human.

• 4-year-old-dog equals a 32-year-old human.

• 7-year-old-dog equals a 45-year-old human.

• 10-year-old-dog equals a 56-year-old human.

• 15-year-old-dog equals a 76-year-old human.

• 20-year-old-dog equals a 98-year-old human.

Of course, there is a distinct difference in aging between small dogs and giant breed dogs. Large dogs have a significantly shorter life span than do small dogs. Their development in the early years is about the same as other breeds; however, large and giant breed dogs developmentally are much older than smaller breeds in their later years, starting at about 7 years of age.

6. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

The truth: You can teach an old dog new tricks. Dogs can learn new tricks, skills and commands within their physical capabilities until the day they pass away. What’s more, they usually want to learn. Their minds need stimulation, just like ours. With patience, kindness, persistence and consistency, owners can teach their older dogs all sorts of new tricks, such as sit, bark when the doorbell rings, fetch, lie down, roll over, play dead and shake or “high five.” As long as a dog is bright, alert, responsive and healthy, there is no reason that he cannot keep learning new things throughout his life.

7. Dogs eat grass to throw up.

The truth: There actually appear to be two distinct types of grass-eating behavior in domestic dogs. Some dogs graze casually, taking only a few nibbles of grass at a time, while others chow down on grass vigorously and with a purpose. Dogs who wolf down their grass tend to vomit it (and other stomach contents) within a matter of minutes. Dogs that graze slowly usually do not throw up. So, eating grass does not necessarily mean that a dog has an upset stomach.

8. A female cat or dog needs to have a litter before it is spayed.

Belief in this major misconception brings more cats and dogs into an overcrowded world. Spaying reduces risks of mammary gland tumors and ovarian and uterine cancers. It also helps cats and dogs live longer healthier lives.

9. Letting your dog out alone in the yard is enough exercise.

Ever spy on a dog left alone in a yard? Chances are high that he will just lie down and go to sleep. Dogs need you to interact with them, to throw them a ball, and to take them on long walks.

10. Using food to train a dog results in an overweight dog.

Dogs respond well to rewards and praise. The trick is not to overfeed your dog. Take a small handful of the food from your dog’s daily diet —about 10-15 pieces of dry food — and give him one small piece for each task he completes. If you choose to give your dog a treat instead, break that treat into halves or quarters, and give him one small piece each time he accomplishes the task. As much as dogs like food, they like spending time with you even more. So each time your dog (or cat) looks at you with those soulful eyes, give him attention instead of food. He will be a healthier and happier pet.

11. Dogs with black tongues are Chows.

The truth: Many people mistakenly assume that a dog with a black tongue is a Chow or at least part Chow. In reality, there are many other breeds of dog that may have black spots on their tongue or gums.

Many breeds are known to have tongues or gums with black spots, prompting less knowledgeable owners to think they may have a dog that is of mixed parentage rather than a purebred. The list of dog breeds that are known to have tongues with black spots include: Airedale, Akita, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Malinois, Bichon Frise, Bull Mastiff, Cairn Terrier, Collie, Cocker Spaniel, Dalmation, Doberman Pinscher, English Setter, German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever, Gordon Setter, Great Pyranees, Irish Setter, Keeshond, Labrador Retriever, Mastiff, Newfoundland, Pomeranian, Pug, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Siberian Husky, Tibetan Mastiff.



Featured Pet

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The Humane Society of Central Arizona shelter is located at 605 W. Wilson Ct. For more information, call (928) 474-5590.


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