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Debunking the Most Popular Dog Myths

Is a single human year really equal to 7 dog years? Do dogs only see in black and white? And is avocado actually poisonous to dogs? There’s a good chance you’ve heard many of these. And the truth is that you’ve been told these lies all your life.

In this article, I found the 14 biggest and most widespread dog myths, and debunked them. You’ll likely be shocked at how much misinformation there is online and within communities. So, let’s start with the classic dog myths.

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1. Dog Myth: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

This is a saying that you’ve probably heard this many times. I know I have. But where did this saying actually come from? Well, it’s rooted in the belief that older individuals, both human and canine, might struggle to adapt to new behaviors or learn fresh skills.

This myth might have gained traction because we’ve all been told to start training early on. And while it’s true that younger dogs may be more receptive to learning, it doesn’t necessarily mean an old dog can’t learn as well.

The reality is that dogs of all ages can learn using positive reinforcement and behavioral conditioning. And sure, older dogs may need a bit more time and repetition to kick an old habit, but they’ll get there eventually.

2. Dog Myth: Dogs feel guilty or shame when they do something wrong.

By now, you’ve probably seen plenty of those viral videos of dogs looking guilty after making a mess. It’s almost like they know they did something wrong, right? Well, the truth might surprise you.

The concept of dogs feeling “guilt” or “shame” is often linked to their expressions, that is, those cute yet irresistible puppy-dog eyes and a lowered head. It sure does look like an expression of guilt.

But here’s the twist. Research suggests that these behaviors are more about reacting to your displeasure rather than a genuine sense of guilt. So, “dog shaming” doesn’t actually work.

Next time you come home to a chewed-up shoe, it’s most likely your dog is showing those guilty looks not because they feel guilt, but because they sense your disappointment.

3. Dog Myth: Purebred dogs are always smarter than mixed dog breeds.

The belief that purebred dogs are inherently smarter than mutt dogs has been a longstanding myth. But intelligence in dogs is a complex matter that can’t be easily explained.

First off, there’s no conclusive proof that purebreds are smarter than mixed dogs, or vice versa. However, we do have unofficial studies with some evidence suggesting mutts may actually be more intelligent than purebreds. 

What’s even more interesting was that a 2010 published study found that mixed dog breeds scored a bit higher on a measure of problem-solving abilities when compared to purebred dogs.

So how could this be the case? One theory was that genetic diversity found in mutt dogs may have given them a wider range of cognitive abilities. But again, there’s no concrete proof either way.

4. Dog Myth: Having a dry and warm nose means your dog is sick.

Contrary to popular belief, your dog’s nose isn’t a weather vane for sickness. It’s like judging a book by its cover, only furrier. And while a wet and cool nose is often considered normal, a dry or warm nose doesn’t necessarily signal illness.

Your dog’s nose can vary in moisture or temperature throughout the day, influenced by factors such as hydration, environment, or individual variations. A dry nose can be completely normal, and many healthy dogs can have warm and dry noses at times. 

On the other hand, a wet nose doesn’t always guarantee good health either. In fact, signs of illness in a dog extend far beyond the condition of the nose. Symptoms such as lethargy, changes in appetite, or behavioral changes are all a better assessment of a dog’s health.

So, if your furry friend’s nose feels warm and dry, fear not! It’s not likely that they’re sick, but rather it’s a warm day or they need to drink some water.

5. Dog Myth: Your dog’s mouth is cleaner than your mouth.

It’s time to set the record straight for the clean freaks. First things first, the typical dog’s mouth is not at all a sterile sanctuary. Sure, it’s true that their saliva has some bacteria-fighting properties, but it’s not a magical disinfectant. 

Dogs explore the world with their mouths, from licking the ground to savoring questionable items. Not exactly an excellent dental hygiene routine if you ask me.

Now, let’s talk “bacteria.” A dog and human’s mouth hosts hundreds of different strains of bacteria, so it’s like comparing apples to oranges. What’s harmless for your dog might not be so friendly for us. 

But here’s a thing – dogs are known to snack on, well, gross stuff. A dog’s mouth is a mix of adventure, bacteria, and the occasional mystery snack – so  I definitely wouldn’t call it cleaner than a human’s mouth. Next time your dog kisses on your face, you’d better think twice.

6. Dog Myth: Avocado is poisonous and deadly for dogs.

When we first get our dogs, we’re told grapes, onions, and avocados are bad for dogs. And sure, it’s true that avocados can be poisonous to dogs, but that’s not the entire truth.

Persin is the toxin found in avocados that can be deadly for dogs. However, this toxin is only found in the pit and skin of the avocado, whereas the pulp of the avocado is generally safe for dogs to eat.

I mean – who actually eats avocados with the skin on? And I can’t imagine anyone feeding the pit to their dogs. As long as you’re not giving your dog a whole, unprepped avocado to chow down on, they’ll be perfectly fine enjoying some avocados from time to time. 

7. Dog Myth: A good way to cool your dog down is to shave them.

I’ll admit, this myth probably makes the most sense. I mean – having less fur during a hot summer day means the dog stays cooler, right? Well, not exactly.

Our dog’s coat is like a natural temperature regulator and a built-in sunshield, protecting them from both sunburn and overheating. When you shave off their coats, it actually disrupts their body’s natural cooling mechanisms. 

And for double-coated dog breeds, such as the Siberian Husky or Corgi, there’s no guarantee their coats will grow back the same! In fact, it often grows back wrong.

If your dog really can’t stand the heat, opt for grooming, shade, air conditioning, and a splash of water to keep them cool. So before you reach for those clippers, remember, a well-maintained coat is the best bet against the heat.

8. Dog Myth: A dog with a wagging tail is always happy.

This is perhaps the biggest (and most widespread) dog myth in canine history. So before you happily go and approach a dog with a wagging tail, here’s what you need to know.

While a vigorous, high tail wag may signify excitement or joy, a slow yet low wag can indicate uncertainty, stress, or even submission. The tail’s position, speed and accompanying body language all play a part in this tail-telling sign.

For example, studies show dogs wag their tails to the right when they’re excited or confident. However, their tails wag to the left when they’re anxious or frightened. Surprisingly, there’s a scientific explanation for this.

The right side of a dog’s brain controls the left side of the body…and vice versa. However, the right brain is associated with feelings of fear and depression, so frightened dogs wag their tails to the left. The left brain is associated with feelings of love and calmness, so they’ll wag their tails to the right.

So, next time your pup wags their tail, take a closer look at the context and overall body language for the real scoop on their emotional state.

9. Dog Myth: Your dog will only eat grass when they’re sick or not getting sufficient nutrient.

No, dogs aren’t turning into canine pharmacists every time they nibble on that green carpet. Sure, dogs might munch on grass if they have an upset stomach, but that’s just one possible explanation. Both the illness and insufficient nutrient theories don’t have any definitive proof in scientific studies.

So why on earth would our furry companions eat grass? Well, the most likely explanation is that they just enjoy the taste or texture of grass. It’s something completely different from their kibbles or dog treats. Or, it could be that they’re simply bored.

But no matter the real reason why, letting your dog eat grass can actually make them sick, instead of the other way around. With all the pesticides and toxic greenery around, it’s best to just avoid letting them get away with this behavior. 

10. Dog Myth: Dogs can’t see color (only black and white).

It’s time to shatter that monochromatic myth! Growing up, I’ve heard the old-school belief that dogs view the world like a vintage movie – that is, in black and white. However, scientific studies have shown that dogs live in a more vibrant spectrum.

To see in full color as we know it, humans have three cones in their eyes: red, blue and green. However, dogs only have blue and green cones. While they might not catch every hue as vividly as humans do, dogs do see the world in shades of blue and yellow.

If you’re curious, here’s what the world looks like in the eyes of a dog. We call this “dichromatic vision” and it’s comparable to a human that’s red-green colorblind. So, next time you’re picking out a toy for your dog, it’s probably best to go with a blue or yellow colored toy.

11. Dog Myth: One human year is 7 dog years.

Wrong, yet again. Given the fact that a 9 month old dog can have puppies of her own, this myth doesn’t even make much sense. The truth is, this dog-to-human-age ratio doesn’t move up in a linear fashion. It’s more like a pup-tastic curve!

For example, larger breeds tend to age faster in their early years but slow down later, while smaller dogs might maintain their youthful energy longer.

The first year of a dog’s life is roughly 12 to 15 years of a human’s life. The second year may be around 9 to 10 human years, and each year after that could be about 4 to 5 human years. But even this isn’t all-too precise, as it really depends on your dog’s life stage, breed, and the size.

12. Dog Myth: You should always be the “alpha” of your dog.

The “alpha wolves” theory is outdated, debunked and has become misleading for dog owners all over the world. Modern understanding of dog behavior suggests that dogs don’t actually form packs the same way that wolves do, despite sharing close DNA.

We now know that dogs don’t actually try to dominate each other, nor their owners, when living in packs. In fact, they operate more as a family or communal unit. So if you do raise a dog, especially in a multi-dog family, remember to build a strong bond based on trust and mutual respect.

13. Dog Myth: All dogs can instinctively swim.

Perhaps it’s the “doggy paddle” that leads us to believe that all dogs are natural swimmers. But this is simply a huge misconception that’s led to the drowning of many dogs.

Sure, some dog breeds, such as the Labrador or Golden Retriever, are natural swimmers because they were bred for swimming. However, there are some breeds, such as the Bulldog or Frenchie, that’ll likely sink like a rock if not properly trained to swim.

So before you throw your dog into the deep end, remain cautious and always use a life jacket until the dog is comfortable and confident in water.

14. Dog Myth: Your dog will always love it when you hug them.

Of all the dog myths, this may be the hardest one for owners to swallow. After all, who wants to admit that their furry friends don’t enjoy a good hug from them? However, while some dogs may tolerate or even enjoy hugs, most tend to feel anxious or threatened.

In fact, according to a study by canine psychologist and researcher Stanley Coren, about 81.6% of dogs showed signs of stress or anxiety when being hugged. This number was derived after analyzing for all the top stress signs in 250 photos of owners hugging their dogs.

Now I’m not saying you should never hug your dog. But be on the lookout for signs of stress when you do, such as lip-licking, a turning away head, or yawning. Instead, dogs seem to much prefer when you gently pet under their chins or rub their bellies.

So which dog myth shocked you the most? And is there any good ones that I missed? Let me know in the comments section below!

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