For dog owners, understanding the odd and often confusing behavior of our pets means that we can better learn to take care of them. By knowing the signs of when they are upset or not feeling quite up to snuff, we can make sure that we take appropriate action. Unfortunately, what we know about dog behavior changes from time to time, meaning that some information that is put out there is wrong. However, once you get a unique dog factoid out there, it is really hard to make it disappear.
So what do we think we know about dogs that is completely, utterly not true?
A Wagging Tail Means Happiness
While not entirely untrue, a waggly tail does not always mean your pet is overwhelmed with happiness. As dogs do not use facial expressions or words to express emotions like humans do, they instead use their tail. They have a small range of positions and motions for their tail that indicate how they are feeling, and knowing them can be helpful in a lot of situations.
Some gestures are obvious, like a tucked tail indicates fear. However, a wagging tail takes a little more finesse to figure out. When a pet is happy, it tends to waggly a good deal of its body along with its tail. You will notice this at times like when you can home from work. However, a tail kept high and only wagging at the tip means that your pet is cautious. You will see this when meeting new people and dogs. Finally, if the tail is kept low and wagging frantically, your dog is either about to fight or flee. In those situations, give your dog and out before a bad situation develops.
Dogs Only Eat Grass If Ill
It is widely believed that dogs eat grass because they want to settle their stomach with it. This is a fact that makes no sense. Grass is actually pretty hard to digest, which is why cows have a multi-stomach system to handle it, so eating grass isn’t something that will help an upset stomach. There are much more likely reasons to blame for your pet’s occasional grass chomping.
Dogs, like people, will occasionally get cravings for nutrients that they are lacking in their diet. One of the biggest needs that eating grass satisfies is a need for fiber to help with digestion. Another cause of occasional grass eating is to literally taste if anyone has been in their territory. However, this only happens in the most paranoid and territorial of canines. Finally, some dogs literally just seem to eat grass because they enjoy the taste, an unfortunate hobby as it frequently results in the dog vomiting because grass is so hard to digest.
Dogs are Color Blind
While they will never get to experience the same vibrancy as our eyes, their eyes do have one advantage over ours – the ability for excellent low light vision.
In Case of Nightmare, Wake Dog Up
Your pooch is laying next to you on the couch, and suddenly they starts yipping and twitching where they lay. It seems pretty clear that they are dreaming. The way they are carrying on makes it seem like a nightmare so naturally it is believed you should do the humane thing and wake them up. However, there is one big problem with this misconception – we don’t know if dogs actually dream.
So how can they have nightmares?
It seems an awful lot like they do dream, but no one can be sure. However, dogs, like people, show signs of entering REM sleep which is often where we dream. While we are dreaming is often when our brain is laying down memories. So if, theoretically, a dog is dreaming, by waking them up you are preventing them from putting all their happy memories down.
If nothing else, this twitching means that your pet has entered those few crucial moments of deep sleep that it needs for good mental health. While dogs will sleep for around 14 hours a day, essentially most of the time they are just in standby mode for the next interesting thing. When deep sleep is fully achieved, by waking them up, you may be doing them some harm.
A Dry, Warm Nose Means a Dog is Sick
There is no way to tell, just by a touch, if your dog is sick. Some dog owners equate the temperature of a dog’s nose to if they have a fever or not, but a warm, dry nose is not an indicator of illness. This myth comes from a different time when canine distemper wasn’t vaccinated for and it was pretty widespread. One symptom of this disease is that the skin on the nose and foot pads would thicken, thus an indicator of not thickening was a healthy wet and cold nose.
A dog will typically have a warm, dry nose after a period of sleep. Typically, it keeps their nose wet through licking it, which in turn cools it down and helps it better pick up smells. However, if your pet has a hot, dry nose combined with other symptoms like vomiting or lethargy, those are pretty good indicators that they are indeed sick.
Dogs Like Hugs
Who doesn’t like a good hug, right? Dogs don’t really enjoy them so much. While hugs are displaying how much we care about our dogs, they don’t interpret it quite the same way. In dog culture, when another dog puts their limbs over another, it is a gesture of dominance. This, in turn, will make the dominated dog feel anxious. While their reaction can vary from dog to dog depending on their personality, typically a dog who doesn’t like hugs will change its body language. They will become stiff and likely start licking their lips in a gesture of anxiety.
In short, you probably shouldn’t hug your pet all the time. Still, they are so cute they can probably suffer through the occasional squeeze.
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