Researchers — actual researchers — monitored 37 different dog breeds over two years to determine that they can sense the Earth’s magnetic field and that they “prefer to relieve themselves along a north-south axis.” And most of the time, they’ll even try to avoid pottying on the east-west axis.
So if you’ve ever wondered why the heck your dog spends so much time sniffing and spinning to find the right spot, now you know. But, do you know why your pooch tilts its head when you’re talking to it or how many colors it can actually see?
Keep reading to learn more interesting dog facts you can use to win virtual trivia or impress your friends on your next Zoom happy hour.
22 More Outrageous Dog Facts
From the fun to the serious to the slightly outrageous, enjoy these facts that’ll help you learn more about human’s best friend.
Dogs Have 50x More Scent Receptors Than Humans
It’s thought that humans can detect trillions of scents — which makes the number of smells dogs can probably pick up on practically unfathomable.
That’s because dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors depending on the breed, while humans have around 6 million. The olfactory system in a dog’s brain is three times larger than the one in a human’s, even though their actual brain is ten times smaller.
A Dog’s Nose Print is Like Your Fingerprint
Between the outlines of their nostrils, ridges, and dimples; dogs have a pattern on their nose that’s believed to be as unique as a fingerprint. That’s why some organizations actually register nose prints to help identify individual dogs.
There’s a Scientific Reason for That Cute Head Tilt
It’s no surprise that dogs can hear a large range of frequencies — and part of that may be thanks to the way they move their heads to catch sounds.
If your dog tilts its head when you’re talking to it, it’s not just to be cute. It’s thought that dogs do this to adjust their pinnae — that cute floppy or upright outer portion of the ear — so they can locate the source of a sound.
It’s also believed that dogs may reposition their heads when you’re talking to them so that they can better see your face, which helps them understand the emotion you’re conveying (more on that later).
There’s a Reason Dachshunds Are So Small Yet So Mighty
Among the many things we didn’t know about Dachshunds is that they were bred to hunt badgers. “Dachshund” is German for badger dog and their short legs keep them close to the ground where they can track smells while their narrow frames enable them to crawl into badger burrows.
Weaker Taste Buds Explain a Lot
Compared to their noses and ears, dogs are pretty underpowered in the taste department.
Your dog has about one-sixth of the taste buds you have, which makes it a lot easier to understand why they’re so quick to scarf down old food scraps, dirty puddle water, and other unsavory snacks if given any chance at all.
Dogs Can Sense When You Have Bad Feelings About Someone
Dogs are incredibly perceptive to body language and their heightened senses mean they can hear small breathing changes and smell the pheromones you release. All of these senses enable them to pick up on subtle shifts that may happen when you feel uncomfortable around someone. So it might not be that your dog doesn’t like that weird neighbor you always avoid on walks — they can just tell that you don’t like them!
Three Dogs Survived the Titanic Catastrophe
Only three dogs survived the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. The two Pomeranians and the Pekingese were thought to have survived because they were kept in their owners’ first-class cabins instead of the kennel on board.
But the real question is, could they have fit on the raft with Rose?
That Sniffer May Save Your Life
Dogs have been taught to sniff out and warn humans about all kinds of ailments, including infections as well as oncoming migraines, low blood sugar events, and seizures.
Some pups are even being trained to detect the smells of certain chemicals that cancer cells emit. In one study, they were 88% accurate at sniffing out breast cancer and 99% accurate at detecting lung cancer.
Yes, They Can Sense Fear — But in a Good Way
Does your dog ever “check on you” after you hear a startlingly loud noise from outside? Do they seem to stay right on your heels when everyone is out and you’re the only one at home?
That’s because dogs can sense “fear” in the form of adrenaline that your body releases when you’re afraid or startled by something. They recognize this scent and stay close to you in order to comfort and protect a cherished member of their pack.
Pooches Are Savvier Than Their Goofy Grins Let On
And it’s not just their razor-sharp senses that dogs use to pick up on clues, they’re savvier than you think. Just like they can pick up on your body language to tell how you feel about someone, they can also use it to tell what you’re thinking to an extent. For example, in one study, dogs were able to find hidden food just by following their human’s gaze.
They Can Read Human Facial Expressions
In addition to reading body language, dogs can also accurately unravel your emotional state just by seeing your facial expressions. One study found that dogs can definitely tell when a face is sad — even in a photo. Interestingly, they’re also more likely to approach a person who looks sad, which may hint at some form of empathy.
You May Think Twice Next Time You Say One of These Phrases
Many seeing eye dogs are trained to go potty on demand so their owners can more effectively find it and clean it up. Popular demands to do their business are “Get busy” and “Go time.” Really makes you think twice about using those phrases, doesn’t it?
The Tallest Dog Ever Recorded was Over 7’ When Standing
According to Guinness World Records, the tallest dog they’ve measured to date stood at 44” tall when measured at the withers (the high point of a dog’s shoulder blade) and 7’ 4” when standing on his hind legs! Their shortest dog on record was a minuscule 3.8” tall at the withers and weighed just one pound.
Dogs Are About as Smart as Toddlers
While canine intelligence varies by breed — with Border Collies being the smartest — most dogs can count to some extent, understand 150 words, and even trick people and other dogs when there’s food on the line. Generally speaking, that makes dogs about as smart as the average two-year-old human.
Dogs’ Noses Are Wet Thanks to a Special Mucus That Absorbs Chemicals
That cold, wet dog nose is the result of special mucus dogs secrete to absorb scent molecules and chemicals. When the dog licks its nose, it can then taste those particles to better understand what the smell is.
And for a bonus fact, it’s totally normal for a dog to have a warm and dry nose for a variety of reasons! What you should look out for is changes in the regular texture of their nose or what it’s secreting.
Dogs Are Great for Your Love Life!
Nearly 70% of people report that they wouldn’t date a person who didn’t like pets. Can you blame them?
A Wag Is Worth a Thousand Words
You’ve probably wondered what your dog is thinking from time to time. If you learn to understand what they’re saying with their tail, you might get a little closer to figuring it out.
According to Jess Trimble, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and chief veterinary officer for the online veterinary consultation company Fuzzy Pet Health, a vigorous wag from side to side often means happiness, a slow wag with the tail held low may signify fear or insecurity, and a very high tail wagged quickly might show fear or even aggression.
Dogs Experience Jealousy!
Going along with the theory that dogs are about as mature as toddlers, it makes sense that they experience jealousy the same way young kinds might. You’re not imagining that your dog fights for your attention when you’re busy fawning over other animals — or that they’re extra suspicious about your smell when you come home from another household with pets.
No Surprise — The US Has a Lot of Pet Pooches
The United States has the highest population of pet dogs in the entire world. In fact, there’s one pet pooch for every four Americans! Labs have been the most popular breed among Americans for nearly 3 decades now.
They Can See More Color Than We Think
Contrary to a very common belief, dogs can actually see colors. However, since they only have one-tenth of the cones that humans have, they see those colors differently.
Dogs are dichromatic, which means they can see two color families — blue-violets and yellows. This makes them unable to clearly distinguish between green, yellow, orange, and red; much like color-blind humans. Instead of color, dogs use a variety of other cues (including smell, texture, brightness, etc.) along with superior night and motion vision to navigate the world around them.
Dogs Understand Your Tone More Than Your Words
Since dogs can’t really grasp the breadth of human language, they’ve developed ways to tie meaning to what they can understand — sound. The pitch, intonation, rhythm, and other tones in your voice communicate more to your dog than your actual words (and pure volume!) do a lot of the time. So, yelling commands at your dog might not be as effective as consistently using a stern tone for admonishment and an upbeat tone for praise.
Petting a Dog Can Drop Your Blood Pressure — And Other Ways They’re Good for Your Health
We already know that dogs are pretty great at detecting ailments, but did you know that just having one around can improve your overall health?
Studies have found that older adults who own pets are 36% less likely to suffer from loneliness, petting a dog can lower the “stress hormone” cortisol and increase the “happy hormone” oxytocin, lower heart rates, increase executive function, reduce the need for pain medication, and lower your blood pressure by 10%.
And Now a Not-So-Fun Fact: A Microchip Isn’t Enough
Our final fact is less of a fun-to-know and more of a need-to-know that every dog owner should be aware of: You cannot track your dog with a microchip.
Microchips are radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices that are implanted under a dog’s skin at the vet. A microchip is a great solution for lost pets that are brought to a shelter or vet’s office, but they can only be read by a special scanner at close range — which means they aren’t helpful for locating pets that are still lost or are never brought to the appropriate facility once found.
So while we’re certainly not against microchips as a safety solution for your pooch, we also highly recommend investing in a tracker that attaches to your dog’s collar. A tracker emits a signal that can be followed in real-time so you can search for (and hopefully find!) your pet before it’s picked up or gets too far away.