Facts About Dogs: 13 Things You Might Not Know

Trent Webb

We could spend hours (and often do) discussing dog trivia! We won’t keep you that long, but we’ve gathered together our favourite 10 facts about dogs, specifically canine biology, to share. Then realised we had three too many and couldn’t bear to cut any. So, glossing over the unlucky list length, did you know that…

#1 A dog’s whiskers (vibrissae) can detect subtle changes in air movements, which helps them ‘see’ in low light conditions, by sensing the nearby motion. Originally this was to help them spot prey or approaching danger at night time.

#2 In more low-light news, dogs’ night-vision is further enhanced by the mirror-like membrane ‘tapetum lucidum’. This rebounds the light that their eye’s rods (light-and-motion sensitive cells) didn’t absorb into the retinas, so they can see more in poor light conditions.

#3 The only dog unable to bark is the Basenji. This breed is from Central Africa and legend has it that the ability was bred out of them so they could not give away their owner’s position to enemies. They do make a noise when excited, a sort of yodel, which isn’t a giveaway. Apparently.

Have a listen to a Basenji not barking. Not entirely sure it is yodelling either...

#4 Dogs roll in dirt, rubbish or worse because the odour masks their own smell. This was useful when they were wild, as it both masked their smell from prey and kept their scent away from predators’ noses.

#5 Humans may trump dogs in the taste bud arena, 9,000 to 1,700 but some dog taste buds can sense water, which helps them to maintain a good internal fluid balance. Even with 7,300 extra taste buds humans can’t do this.

#6 The University of Manchester found there was a 50/50 split between left and right pawed dogs. Which makes them far more sinister (look up the original definition) than humans who have 90/10 right to left division.

#7 30% of Dalmatians suffer from single ear deafness. This is more likely to afflict Dalmatians with blue eyes, than those with brown. Similarly, those with a smaller ‘black to white’ ratio are more likely to suffer. This deafness is caused by lack of mature melanin producing cells – a trait common with other spotty and albino coated dogs.

#8 A dog’s shoulder blades are actually ‘detached’ from their skeleton. This offers them far greater flexibility which aids them when they run. It also means they can take up more of the sofa.

#9 Dogs have a third eyelid. This 3rd eyelid is called the “haw” (or nictitating membrane by vets who want to sound fancy) and its job is to protect the eye and keep it lubricated.

#10 Dogs have more than twelve separate muscles that control the movement of their ears. They are called the auricular muscles – a group of muscles which controls the movement of the pinna or outer ear. It helps them focus on sound and look cute on Instagram.

A Norwegian Lundehund - any puffins reading this are advised to skip #11

#11 The Norwegian Lundehund has 6 toes and their ears can be folded shut. In historic times, this apparently helped them hunt puffins.

#12 Puppies will grow to half their adult body weight in the first four to five months. But then take another 12 months to gain the other half. Unlike humans who can put on half their bodyweight in a single Christmas.

#13 The American Water Spaniel was a hunting dog developed to be able to retrieve game from boats in the Great Lakes region. Their thick coat, webbed feet and small body size meant they could leap from the boat into the icy water, get the fallen bird and hop back in with ease.

While the above facts about dogs may seem only suited to a pub-quiz, you’ll thank us when you meet your first Basenji or see a Puffin being stalked by a Lundehund! Plus, they’ll be impressed at training when you tell them all about Water Spaniels leaping from boats. If they’re polite.

This Facts About Dogs post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!