After co-existing for over 15,000 years you would be surprised what you still don’t know about dogs.
Here are 10 little known facts about our furry friends:
1. About 6 million dogs are diagnosed with cancer each year, and dogs get canine versions of rare human disorders like the brain-wasting neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis that leads to the inability to walk or control their muscles. If you have cancer, diabetes, or epilepsy, your dog might be the first to know. Studies have shown that dogs can be trained to sniff out cancers of the lung, breast, skin, bladder and prostate. Researchers suspect the canines are picking up on extraordinarily faint scents given off by the abnormal cells.
2. Dogs can be as smart as 2-year-old children, according to research presented in 2009 at a meeting of the American Psychological Association. Border collies are the top dogs in the intelligence category, with some in the breed capable of understanding up to 200 words. Poodles, German shepherds, Golden retrievers and Dobermans round out the top five smartest breeds. (The most popular breed in America, the Labrador retriever, comes in at number seven.)
3. We’ve all heard the canard that dogs’ mouths are cleaner than humans (they’re not), but in reality, dogs can carry pathogens that harm humans. Rabies, a fatal neurological disease, is the most famous (remember Old Yeller?), though vaccines, mandated by law in most states, can stop the spread. In a few cases, dog food has been known to cause food poisoning in humans, thanks to contamination by Salmonella bacteria. Perhaps creepiest of all is a 2003 study published in The Veterinary Record, which found that humans could contract the parasitic roundworm Toxocara canis just be stroking an infected dogs’ fur. The roundworm, which grows in dogs’ intestines, can grow in the back of the eye in humans, causing blindness. They also sometimes take up residence in human livers and lungs.
4. Dogs know when they’re not getting a fair shake. A 2008 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that when dogs saw other dogs getting treats for a trick they’d been performing unrewarded, the unrewarded dogs became agitated, scratching themselves and avoiding the gaze of the rewarded dogs. They also stopped doing the trick much faster than if they were alone and not getting a reward.
5. Those puppy-dog eyes Fido gives you when you scold him over knocking over the garbage can for the umpteenth time aren’t a sign of guilt, researchers say. He’s just responding to your rebuke. When dog owners thought their dogs had eaten a forbidden treat and reprimanded them, the pooches looked just as “guilty” regardless of whether or not they had actually eaten the treat. In fact, dogs who were wrongly accused of snack-snatching often looked more guilty than dogs who had really eaten the treat.
6. On the other hand, if your dog stays out of the garbage, it may be in for a longer life. Obedient, docile dog breeds live longer, according to research published in June 2010 in The American Naturalist. The study compared the energy use, personalities, growth rates and life spans of 56 dog breeds. After controlling for factors like body size, the researchers found that bold, aggressive breeds lived fast and died young. They grew faster than obedient, eager-to-please breeds, and also had higher energy needs.
7. From the droopy Bassett hound to the sleek-and-slim Weimaraner, dogs show an amazing diversity in body shape. A study published in The American Naturalist in 2010 found that the differences between dog breeds’ skulls are as pronounced as the differences between completely separate mammal species. A Collie skull, for example, is as different from a Pekingese skull as a cat’s skull is from a walrus’s.
8. In ancient times, people saw dogs as more than useful animals; dogs also had a spiritual role. The three-headed hound called Cerberus guarded the underworld in Greek myth, while the ancient Egyptian embalmers took Anubis, the jackel-headed god, as their patron. In Mayan folklore, dogs were believed to lead the dead to the afterlife. In Nepal, the autumn festival of Tihar sets aside a day to honor dogs with flower garlands and food.
9. Nowadays, dogs are more likely to be seen as pets than religious figures, but people are still crazy about canines. According to a 2009-2010 survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 39 percent of American households have at least one dog for a total of over 77 million pet dogs hunkered down in American homes. In one recent survey, 80 percent of dog owners reported interacting with their dogs for more than two hours a day. Many reported viewing their pets as their children.
10. Man’s best friend may even net you more human friends. A 2000 study published in journal of The British Psychological Society found that walking with a dog at least tripled the number of social interactions a person had.
Do you know a rare fact about canine’s that you can share with us below?