dog doing a trick with muffin

“Stuff like this is why old dogs pretend that they can’t learn new tricks.”

The list of myths about dogs far exceeds the topics covered below. From ancient tribal superstitions, to wives’ tales from the farmlands, we humans have carried beliefs about dogs that have transcended the centuries.  Look through the below list to set the record straight:

  • A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth:  For many years people regarded dog saliva as an antiseptic, able to clean wounds sufficiently.  While dogs certainly attend any cuts, scrapes or ailments by licking the sore places, their saliva does have bacteria.  This is mostly caused by diet, the items they chew on, and the bacteria caused by oral and gum disease.  Dogs are just susceptible to different kinds of diseases and bacteria than humans.
  • One year in a dog’s life is the same as seven “people” years:   This seems like a logical conclusion when you consider that most dogs live roughly 10-12 years, which is about 70-74 years, and just below the average life expectancy for humans.   However, aging is rather relative for dogs, since every breed develops differently in each season of life. For example, many larger dog breeds’ health usually declines at a more rapid rate than smaller dog breeds.
  • Dogs yawn when they are tired:  This is true; dogs do yawn when they are tired. However dogs ALSO yawn when they are stressed or feeling tense, and they yawn when they are uncomfortable or when they want space.  Some believe that dogs also yawn when excited.
  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks:  This principle originated from a saying in England in the 16th century, basically stating that you must teach a dog when he is young, or he will not be able to stand correction when he is old. This concept sadly dissuades many eager per-owners from adopting adult dogs.   Though instructing a dog is most effective if the process begins at an early age, with patience and persistence training, adult and senior dogs can acquire a wealth of useful skills.
  • Dogs wag their tail when they are happy:  Usually this is correct!  However, dogs also have a tendency to wag their tails if they are feeling confident and aggressive, or tense and agitated.  Dogs sometimes use their tails as a warning signal.  Note if the tail is wagging while pup’s ears are back and his gaze is attentive, or he is creeping forward slowly; the dog might be afraid or ready to attack.  Use common sense and evaluate all aspects of the dog’s stance and behavior.  Give a good look over the whole dog before you decide if it is wise to approach him.
  • Growling means the dog is angry:   False! Dogs growl when they play tug-o-war, when they want to give another dog a gentle warning to back off of their territory.  Growling can be authoritative, but it can also be the way a rowdy pup tells his owner it’s time to wrestle!
  • Putting a dog in the yard is enough exercise:  False.  Dogs were designed to work and use their bodies.  Even the smallest, seemingly “sedentary” of breeds need a solid stretch of the legs, that exceeds running around a yard.   Exercising dogs is not only important for their physical health, but for their mental stimulation as well.  Dogs that fail to have vigorous, regular exercise are more likely to develop behavioral problems.
  • A dry/warm nose means a sick dog:  False.  If a dog’s nose is dry, it could just mean that he is dehydrated from playing out in the sun, or maybe there is just not enough circulation in a room.  Dogs also tend to get dry noses if they are indoors in an over-heated house during wintertime, etc.  Look for other alarming symptoms that show your dog is ill before you rush him off to the vet.
  • Mutts are healthier than purebreds:  This is not necessarily true. Though mutts are less likely to suffer from the genetic disorders, spinal diseases, and skin diseases that often assail purebreds; mutts also face their own health complications.  Recent studies have shown that mutts and purebreds equally can suffer from hip dysplasia, cancer and epilepsy and other ailments.
  • Dogs should have a litter before they are spayed:  False. There is no medical evidence backing this claim up. Giving birth is not necessarily better for the dog, as it increases the risk for cancer and uterine infections, and is a great physical strain for any creature.  Spaying dogs also helps guard the community from overpopulation, and the need to euthanize shelter pets.
  • Indoor dogs/Companion dogs don’t need training:  The difference between a well-behaved dog and an untrained, unruly animal is a stark contrast indeed. Even if your fluffy fur ball is a lap pet whose only goal in life is to eat, lounge, and traipse about the house, it is still your responsibility to train him.   This way, the dog will understand who is in charge, and will not run amuck on the furniture, or charging and jumping up on anyone that walks through the front door.  A well-trained dog makes a home a much more pleasant place.