6 Myths About Dogs: Busted

Dogs aren’t the most mysterious creatures, but there are still many factoids and myths that surround canines. In fact, even seasoned dog parents may be shocked to learn that some of the most widely accepted ideas about dogs are false or exaggerated. If you’re looking to understand your dog better, or want to learn more about dogs before bringing home one of your own, distinguishing fact from fiction is key. It’s time to throw out everything you think you know about dogs and start from scratch with only the facts. This article debunks six of the most common myths about dogs, providing you with a strong basis to build from.


Myth 1: Dogs can’t see any colours

Many people believe that dogs are completely colourblind, viewing the world in only black, white, and grey. While it’s true that dogs have much more limited colour vision than humans, they are not totally colourblind. In reality, dogs can see a reduced spectrum of colours, including shades of blue, yellow, grey and brown. The colours they are blind to are reds and greens. This is because dogs eyes only contain two types of cones, which is around a fifth of what human eyes have to work with. 

This may seem like a useless fact, but in reality, it can help you make your dog’s life more fun and vibrant. Instead of choosing red or green toys and accessories that will, to them, come across as boring shades of grey and brown, you can select options with colours they can clearly see. A blue ball, for example, may engage them more than one that is red or green. It will also be much easier for them to fetch as they can discern it from the rest of their surroundings. 


Myth 2: A wagging tail always means a happy dog

A dog wagging their tail is the universally accepted signal that they’re happy, but this isn’t always the case. While it’s true that dogs do wag their tails to express happiness, there are also various other emotions and situations that cause dogs to wag their tails. Some studies even suggest that the direction in which they wag their tail can indicate how they feel, finding that to the left means fear while to the right means happiness and confidence. This is related to the sides of the brain that control certain emotions and how they impact the tail. For example, the left side of the brain, which controls the right side of the body, is responsible for positive emotions, explaining why right sided wagging indicates happiness. 

Tail wagging may also indicate excitement, aggression, friendliness, or insecurity. Excited dogs wag their tails in a range of speeds, from slow to seemingly vibrating. Dogs feeling aggressive may hold their tail vertically while wagging rapidly. A friendly dog will wag in a relaxed manner which may also include some hip wiggles, while insecure dogs will only offer a slight wag to indicate their discomfort or shyness. So, when your dog is wagging their tail, make sure to take their overall body language, as well as the way they are wagging their tail, into account, before assuming it means they’re full of joy. Hopefully your dog will mainly present with happy wags, but it’s important to know the difference for the safety of your dog and those around you. 


Myth 3: Dogs eat grass only when they’re sick

When dog parents see their dogs munching on grass, the first assumption is typically that they must have an upset tummy. While in some cases this may be true, there are multiple other reasons why dogs choose to eat grass. Some dogs simply love the taste of grass, while others may begin to eat it when they feel bored or understimulated. More concerning reasons a dog may eat grass include a lack of fibre or even a dietary deficiency. These are issues to address with a vet to find the best solution based on the specific needs of each grass-munching pooch. 

If your dog habitually eats grass or tends to eat it in high quantities, this should be discouraged with positive reinforcement training as it may end up causing gastrointestinal upset. If you suspect issues with your dog’s fibre intake or their levels of key vitamins or minerals, consulting a vet is advised. It’s also important to look out for signs of an upset tummy when your dog eats grass, especially if it’s not something they normally do. For example, if your dog has a reduced appetite, abnormal bowel movements, or is acting out of character alongside grass eating, contacting a vet for advice is a good idea. The upset stomach may pass on its own or need veterinary attention and treatment depending on the cause. So, when your dog eats grass, try to take all factors and circumstances into account as this will help you understand why they’re doing it and guide you on the best course of action.

Myth 4: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

One of the most well known sayings about dogs is ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. This is due to the fact that puppies are deemed more trainable than adult and senior dogs due to their young age, boundless energy, and eagerness to learn and please. While older dogs may take a little longer to catch on as they can be more set in their ways, they are far from incapable of learning new behaviours, commands, and tricks. The important part is using a training method dogs respond well to, such as positive reinforcement with training treats

As an example, I have a five month old puppy (Peanut) and a 10 year old dog (Pippa). I took Pippa along to Peanut’s puppy classes, and was amazed at the amount she was able to pick up on. The final class involved learning tricks, and she managed to pick up ‘shake a paw’ and even started to learn a counting game. So, if you have an adult or senior dog, there’s still plenty of time to teach them new things. This offers a great bonding opportunity between you and your dog, as well as the chance to provide them with some mental stimulation. Just remember that patience and consistency are key, alongside the use of positive reinforcement.  


Myth 5: Dogs don’t have emotions like humans

The myth that dogs don’t have emotions typically comes from people who don’t have much experience with dogs. While dogs don’t express them in the same ways as humans, anyone who has spent time around dogs knows that they absolutely feel a wide range of emotions. As discussed above in the tail wagging section, many emotions like happiness, fear, shyness, and anger all exist within the canine world. The way they express these emotions may be through body language and/or vocalisation. For example, an excited dog will likely bark, jump, wag their tail, or even spin around. A fearful or aggressive dog may growl and bark with their ears pinned back and teeth showing and their vertical tail wagging rapidly.

Dogs, like humans, may also show emotions in different ways from their other canine counterparts. So, while it’s important to have a basic understanding of the typical signs of different emotions in dogs, the most important part is studying your dog’s individual behaviour. With both the overall knowledge and an understanding of how your dog acts in different circumstances, you can better support your dog’s feelings. This can make your dog’s life happier and safer. Understanding your dog’s emotions can also protect the safety of other people and dogs around you, as unpredictable dogs can cause hazardous situations in some cases. 


Myth 6: Dogs don’t need routine vet visits if they seem healthy”

Most dogs aren’t fans of the vet, so when they’re healthy and happy, many dog owners don’t want to subject their dog to a routine visit. Others simply think that routine visits aren’t needed. In reality, getting regular checkups can help prolong a dog’s life. Vets are able to detect any potential health issues in their early stages during these routine visits. This means they have the chance to address and treat them straight away rather than when they become serious down the line. 

While a biannual checkup is one of the most popular options, your vet will be able to advise you how often your dog should come in for a checkup. Additionally, other routine visits are important, such as vaccine top ups, as these help protect your dog and their canine counterparts from harmful diseases. So, as much as it’s not your dog’s favourite place, regular vet visits are a crucial part of their overall health. 


Final thoughts

If you have a dog or are hoping to bring one into your life, understanding the truth about them is very important. It will enable you to build a deeper bond with them and you will also have a much easier time with training and obedience. So, make sure to throw out these myths and mentally replace them with the truth about the canine world.

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