Fidophiles rejoice! We all love and admire our canine companions for their many fun and endearing qualities. Whether it’s their lovable nature, their diehard loyalty or their goofball antics, we can’t get enough of our dogs. Beside these qualities, however, dogs are amazing beings, who might even be said to possess superpowers. In this post, PugetPets takes a look at some far-out canine abilities and other fascinating dog facts you may not know about your favorite pooch. Read on to learn five ways Fido is fab! You may never look at dogs the same way.
Who doesn’t melt over tiny baby puppies with their little eyes still closed? But did you know that puppies are also born with their ear canals closed? This makes a puppy functionally deaf at birth. The reason puppies are born blind and deaf has to do with canine evolution.
To ensure the survival of herself, her pups and her pack, a mom-dog in the wild needs to be able to run and hunt with the pack as much as possible. Pregnancy inhibits her ability to do so. For this reason, it’s important for any canine mama to get her babies on the ground as fast as possible. Puppies are born less developed, which allows the mom to hunt while they are safely tucked away in a den. In between hunts, she and her pack-mates have lots of time to look after them and give them the care and education they need to grow.
A dog’s gestation period, or time the puppies spend in the womb, is therefore only about 2 months. This is true for both wild dogs and their domestic cousins. Compare the 2-month canine gestation period to the nine-month gestation period of cows. This extra time in the womb allows a little calf the ability to stand up and walk on its own just shortly after birth. Baby elephants spend an astonishing two years in the womb! This longest-lived and biggest-brained land animal needs lots of time to develop before emerging into the world to follow the herd.
For puppies, on the other hand, the den acts as a kind of external womb, where they spend time cuddling with their fellow pups to keep warm and being nursed and groomed by their mom. She even controls when they eliminate waste, licking the pups to stimulate this process. See this article in the Spruce for more fascinating facts about the stages of puppy development.
But what about those superpowers? Puppies may be born deaf, but once their hearing develops, dogs can hear four times as far as humans and detect sounds of a much higher pitch than are audible to the human ear. Dogs can detect a frequency range of 67 to 45,000 hertz (cycles per second), while the human range is from 64 to 23,000 hertz.
It’s a common expression: “Sweating like a dog!” But most of us know that dogs can’t actually sweat. They use panting and the blood vessels in their ears to keep cool instead, right? One of our dog facts that might come as a surprise to many dog guardians is that our canine friends do actually have sweat glands. But they have them only between their paw pads. Dogs sweat, but only a tiny bit. This is good news to us, though. It means you can help your dog stay cool by wetting his or her feet in hot weather.
Superior sense of smell is one of those dog facts we take for granted. But the specifics can be surprising. How much better the canine sense of smell is than ours depends on the dog’s breed. But in general, dogs have between 125 million to 300 million scent glands. Humans, on the other hand, have only 5 million. In addition, the part of your dog’s brain that governs smell is 40 times larger than yours. While the canine brain is much smaller than the human brain, relative to overall body size, more of a dog’s brain is devoted to detecting smells. To give you an idea of how super-powerful a dog’s scent-detecting abilities are, consider this: a dog trained to sniff out explosives can detect a trillionth of a gram of TNT!
And the smelly dog facts keep coming. According to dog cognition expert Alexandra Horowitz, dogs have “stereo olfaction,” meaning that their nostrils work independently of one another. This is equivalent to how the images from our each of our eyes are constructed into a single, three-dimensional image. Horowitz says, “the differences in the strength of the smell image in each nostril help the dog locate the source of the smell in space, whether it’s to his left or right, fore or aft.”
Horowitz therefore urges dog guardians to “embrace the smell walk.” Your dog’s constant need to stop and smell the…ahem…roses (??) may get on your nerves, but remember that this is your dog’s primary means of interacting with the world. Let ’em have a sniff! It’s like you being able to look and touch.
Dog facts about smell are so numerous and amazing, we think they are worth dwelling on! Dogs can smell all kinds of things that we can’t. A dog’s sense of smell is so powerful that your pup can detect very subtle changes in your scent. This can be things like perspiration when you become nervous or fearful or minute hormonal changes relating to mood. This ability can help a dog figure out how you are feeling. It also allows a dog to know when a family member is pregnant and sometimes even if someone is sick or seriously ill.
Dogs can be trained to detect certain types of cancer and have been used to screen for these. Some service dogs have the ability to smell that their companion is about to have a seizure or diabetic shock or if he or she needs to take a prescribed medication. For more fascinating dog facts about service dogs, check out our March 1, 2017 post.
Many people claim that their dogs have saved them from heart attack or stroke. This turns out to be quite plausible, all because of a dog’s superior sense of smell. According to researcher Allan Steinhardt, “ heart attack releases Vasopressin and other enzymes, which are exhaled into the atmosphere…. Amazingly, at one part per trillion, dogs can then sniff these chemicals and can alert their owners that something strange is afoot.” Steinhardt even believes it’s likely that dogs can, in fact, smell an earthquake!
Okay, so maybe you know about dogs’ ability to sniff out moods and illnesses, but did you know that your dog can smell time? Alexandra Horowitz, in her book Being a Dog, describes the mechanism behind this most amazing of dog facts. “Smells in a room change as the day goes on,” Horowitz says, “Hot air rises, and it usually rises in currents along the walls and will rise to the ceiling and go kind of to the center of the room and drop. If we were able to visualize the movement of air through the day, what we’re really visualizing is the movement of odor through the day.” These changes in the movement of odor over time create a canine clock by which your dog can tell, for example, how long you have been away from the house.
The old assumption about domestication was that some kindly human took in an orphaned wolf pup or two and raised them to hunt with humans. This worked so well, that our ancestors began seeking out the pups, and later breeding them. More recently, however, a new theory of domestication has emerged as the predominant one. Researchers now think it is more likely that friendly canines sought out human companionship and the food and protection it provided, deliberately working their way into our hearts.
In other words, some wolves convinced us to accept them, despite our fear and even hatred of their kind. So you could say that dogs domesticated humans, not the other way around. Rather than intelligent humans “taming” a wild beast, canine domestication was a two-way street involving two intelligent species learning to live and work together for mutual benefit. The relationship that developed from this is one dog fact that speaks for itself.