Caring for Your Dog: Common Myths & Realities

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For every fact about dogs out there, there's a litter of dog myths running around. So, when someone tells you something about your pet, how do you know what to believe? Here's a list of the five most common misconceptions related to our furry friends.

1. Dogs See in Black, White and Gray

One of the most common dog myths is that dogs are colorblind. They can see some color, but the spectrum is limited compared to human color vision, says the American Kennel Club. This is because our canine pals are dichromatic, meaning their eyes only have two kinds of the cone cells that control color perception. Humans and most other primates have three kinds of cones, making us trichromatic. For an approximation of how your dog sees the world (similar to a person with red-green color blindness, scientists think) you can check out the Dog Vision online tool. That orange squeaky toy just might look blue to your pooch!

2. Dogs Age in Human Years

While dogs comparatively age much faster than humans, one of the common misconceptions about dogs is that in one year of their life equals exactly seven human years. This fuzzy formula would mean a ten-year-old dog is comparable to a seventy-year-old human. According to Priceonomics, this myth has been around since at least the thirteenth century! Your pup grows up and ages very quickly, but the rule of seven (or three for cats) isn't precise. What truly affects your dog's age in human years is his size, breed and genetic makeup. Wondering how old your dog is right now compared to your brother or grandpa? Pet Health Network® has a great chart based on weight and age to help you figure out how your pooch ages over time.

Two dog noses poking out from under a blanket

3. Dogs with Warm, Dry Noses Are Sick

It's often believed that a healthy dog has a cold, wet nose. However, warm or dry noses are completely normal for dogs and shouldn't be taken as a sign you should worry about your pet's health. Petful writes that everything from dry air to allergies to simply taking a nap can affect the wetness of your dog's nose. However, while nose health isn't normally concerning, if you notice your pet's nose is constantly dry, cracking or running (not simply wet), make an appointment with your veterinarian.

4. Dogs Have Clean Mouths

Yuck. Of all the dog myths you hear, don't believe this one. Dogs explore their world with their mouths and noses, and because of that, there's no telling what's been in your pet's mouth that very day. (Remember, some dogs enjoy eating their own poop.) If dental hygiene is important to you, commit to a daily teeth-brushing routine. As far as getting sick from a doggy kiss, the New York Times reports that the germs in your dog's mouth are typically specific to dogs. Some pathogens like salmonella and certain rare bacteria strains can be passed on to humans in dog saliva, but serious infections are relatively rare. So don't stress too much over the occasional lick.

5. Dogs Wag Their Tails When They're Happy

Think your pup is showing you how pleased he is that you're home when he slaps his tail from side to side? You may be right, but a wag represents a lot more than happiness. A wagging tail can also be a sign of anxiety, frustration, or nervousness, says PawCulture. So how do you know whether your dog is happy or apprehensive when he sees you? Pay attention to his overall body language. Pet Health Network suggests looking at a dog's stance, the position of his ears and the look in his eyes before you approach him.

6. Dogs Should Eat Like Wolves

While it is true that dogs and wolves share a genetic ancestral line, dogs and wolves are from the same animal. Dogs have evolved over thousands of years from strict carnivores that wolves are, to be omnivores — meaning that a raw meat-based meal can actually have very negative health consequences for your dog. In addition, to being a domicile pet rather than a wild beast of the forest, wolves tend to only live around six years — much shorter than dogs, of which proper nutrition has been shown to play a role. So, don't buy the hype when pet food companies tell you to feed your dog a "wolf-like" diet; rather look for one that is balanced with a dog's specific biologic makeup in mind.

7. Cracking the Windows is Sufficient to Leave a Dog in a Car

Nope, nope, nope. In extreme weather conditions, dogs can suffer severe health problems even after a few minutes in an overly hot or cold car. It's best to not leave your dog in the car on days like these. Even if a quick run into the store could turn into a very bad situation for him if you get stuck inside. There are even some states that have permission to break into your car to rescue your dog if you leave your dog in there. Just don't do it. Remember these are your fur children, and just like human children, never leave them unattended in a locked car.

8. You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

One of the more common dog myths, this one is just as mythical as the rest. While there is some truth to dogs needing to be socialized from an early age to help prevent behavior problems as they age, it doesn't mean your older dog can't still learn. Don't believe us? Well maybe you'll believe Chaser, the world's smartest dog, who has reached senior status and still learning new tricks.

9. Dogs Hate Mail Carriers

Okay, so we don't know if your dog has an actual vendetta against your mail carrier, their strange behavior generally arises from a need to alert and protect you — their pack leader. So, when they see this stranger approaching your home, they are just doing what they feel like they need to do to protect you. One way to curb some of this behavior is to introduce your dog to your mail carrier on a couple of occasions so that they see this person as a friend rather than a threat.

10. Dogs and Cats are Mortal Enemies

Jack Russell Terrier and cat snuggle on big pet pillow.Cats are independent, finicky creatures while dogs are naturally curious creatures; it is this dynamic that roused this myth in the first place. Cats and dogs can get along fine as long as they are properly introduced and socialized. Now that doesn't mean that your cat won't swat at your pup when your dog wants to play and your cat just wants to be left alone, so it's best to understand when a situation could escalate and try and resolve it by redirecting the playful one toward something else. Now, the myth of whether there is a secret society of cats trying to overtake the world and dogs are human's first line of defense from this happening ... the myth has still yet to be debunked.

11. Rubbing Your Dog's Nose in an Accident Will Prevent Them in the Future

Again, myth. Dog's tend to understand behavior problems at the time that the behavior occurs. So, when you come home to find an accident and rub your dog's nose in it, it is very likely that he will not make the connection to know what he did. So, you are in essence punishing a dog that doesn't know why he is being punished. This could exacerbate the issue and create more potty problems in the future. Rather, it is best to try and catch him in the act and redirect him to his proper potty destination. Also, make sure to clean up accidents with a pet friendly cleaner, as dogs have an acute sense of smell and will often return to spots they've marked before.

Bonus: Dogs Rely on You for Care

We can safely say that this one is true! Your dog sees you as his pack leader and relies on you for his care. This means finding him proper nutrition, regularly grooming him, exercising him, taking him to the vet regularly and providing him with extra pets and snuggles when he needs them.

It's easy to understand how misconceptions can spread, but now it's your turn as a well-informed pet parent to set the record straight. The next time you hear one of these dog myths from a friend, tell them where to fetch the truth!

Contributor Bio

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at

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