Humans and dogs have spent the last 12,000 years developing a special relationship, but the journey is far from over.
Thanks to science and technology, we’re making some incredible discoveries about our furry friends.
In fact, many people are learning that some of their dog knowledge is actually outdated, wrong, or an outright myth.
We’re here to bust the 7 most common dog myths that millions of people have mistaken as facts. Keep reading to uncover the truth!
Myth 1: A Wagging Tail Means A Happy Dog
Busted! A wagging tail can mean a few different things, ranging from happiness to anger and more. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the different reasons:
- Happiness – Obviously, you’ve seen your dog wagging their tail when they’re happy. When they greet you, play, get a treat, etc., their tail should be wagging like crazy.
- Insecurity – When a dog is slightly nervous about meeting a new person or another dog, they may wag their tail to show they’re insecure but friendly.
- Excitement – Similar to when a dog is happy, they wag their tail when they’re excited. The faster the wag, the more excited they are!
- Friendliness – A dog that is friendly and wants to interact with others may wag their tail and wiggle their hips to show that they’re not a threat.
- Aggression – If a dog wags their tail while holding it vertically, this may mean that they’re defensive and potentially a threat.
If you see a dog wagging their tail, don’t assume that they’re happy or friendly!
Instead, try to glean a few more cues about their current emotional state before interacting.
Myth 2: Dogs Are Colorblind
Busted…sort of. Dogs don’t see in black and white like most people commonly believe, but they also don’t have a full color spectrum like people.
Instead, they have two of the three color receptors that most humans have.
This means that they can see shades and combinations of black, white, yellow, and blue.
Check out the graphic below to get a better idea of what they see versus what we see:
Their vision is closer to a human who’s colorblind and mixes up two colors.
**FUN FACT** The mantis shrimp has both humans and dogs beat: they have a whopping 12 color receptors.
Myth 3: Dogs’ Mouths Are Cleaner Than Humans’
Busted— for the most part. This myth probably started because people believed dogs licking their wounds helped them heal faster and prevented infection.
While it’s possible for a dog to have a cleaner mouth than a human, that’s not exactly how bacteria works.
Dogs and humans both have unique bacteria in their mouths, so comparing them is a bit like comparing apples and oranges.
Each animal (including humans) has bacteria unique to the species that play different roles in our bodies. Bacteria and microorganisms that may be harmful to humans may not be harmful to another animal and vice versa.
One set of mouth microorganisms isn’t necessarily “cleaner” than the other. In fact, cleanliness isn’t a quality that should be used in this comparison.
Instead, it’s more useful to think about what a dog uses their mouths for, like scratching an itch, eating food, and chewing on toys. Basically, it’s a lot of the things you’d use your hands for.
Even so, you can probably still give your doggy some kisses, just consider where their mouth has been recently beforehand.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: My 6th grade science project was to find out if a dog’s mouth is actually “cleaner” than a humans. I cultured saliva samples from my mouth and my dog’s mouth in a petri dish. Needless to say, the petri dish with the dog’s saliva sample grew a lot more interesting creatures.
Myth 4: Spaying Or Neutering Your Dog Is Cruel
BIG Busted! Spaying and neutering dogs prevents multiple types of cancers, diseases, and behavioral issues.
In fact, not spaying or neutering your dog can actually cause them more pain.
Overall, intact dogs (i.e., dogs that aren’t fixed) exhibit a number of behaviors that range from problematic at best to endangering at worst.
These behavioral complications resulting from not spaying/neutering include:
- Excessive marking
- Running away
With their bodies encouraging them to mate, it’s not unusual for dogs to become escape artists or seek relief any way they can find it.
Additionally, dogs that are spayed or neutered live longer on average than dogs who are left intact.
Why? Because spaying/neutering reduces the risk for reproductive diseases and cancer.
You can read more about the benefits of spaying and neutering here, as well as the potential dangers of leaving a dog intact.
Myth 5: One Dog Year Equals Seven Human Years
Busted! The origin of this myth is pretty simple: someone took the average lifespan of dogs and humans and did some math.
Though perhaps well meaning, the math is definitely off.
A dog’s lifespan and life expectancy changes significantly based on a number of factors.
Size is a great example of this: smaller dogs may live an average of five years longer than larger dogs.
Additionally, dogs and humans develop very differently. The have shorter lifespans, therefore they go through different stages of life faster.
For example, dogs reach sexual maturity faster. Dogs can reproduce within their first year of life, but humans definitely cannot.
A closer comparison would be that your dog’s first year of life is equivalent to roughly 15 human years. Each dog year after that is closer to four human years.
But keep in mind, this estimate still varies greatly based on individual dog, breed characteristics, and environmental factors.
So essentially, the math is about as fuzzy as your four-legged BFF.
Myth 6: Some Dogs Breeds Are More Aggressive Than Others
Busted x 1000! This myth is the reason that millions of dog breeds people consider “aggressive” end up abused, neglected, or euthanized in shelters.
It’s true that some dogs were bred for guarding, hunting, and other jobs where the dog isn’t docile.
These dogs were in a way chosen for their job because they were good at tasks that required a certain degree of aggression.
Then, people attempted to breed the dogs that showed the best aptitude for the job. But keep in mind is that all of those dogs are trained to carry out a specific job.
In other words, they are trained to be even better at what their bodies might naturally allow for.
All this means is that certain breeds are better at performing certain tasks. It does not mean that the way they were bred forces them to act aggressive.
Aggression that results in biting or bad behavior is learned, not innate. In other words, it’s a case of nurture over nature.
At the end of the day, a dog is aggressive because they haven’t been taught otherwise, not because of their breed.
If anyone is at fault, it’s not the dog: it’s the owner.
Basically, you don’t need to worry about a dog biting your kids or attacking you just because you’ve heard they’re an “aggressive” breed.
However, it’s a good idea to exercise caution if you know the dog was bred to be protective and you find yourself in a position that the dog could find potentially threatening.
Myth 7: You Need To Show Dominance To Be The “Pack Leader”
Totally busted! The entire idea of a “pack leader” is a myth itself.
This myth started when a naturalist studying captive wolves in the 1970s came up with the theory of a pack leader.
However, pack behavior in the wild versus captivity are very different. Besides, wolves and dogs are very different!
Years later, the same naturalist went back and studied the same pack of wolves. He realized his theory was baseless, but people loved it and kept spreading the myth.
Additionally, you’re not a dog— and your dog knows this! Even if they did need a pack leader, you wouldn’t be able to fill that role.
Similarly, training methods based on this idea have repeatedly failed and proven to be ineffective.
However, your dog definitely does need your help to have a loving family. And we’re sure you’re happy to oblige!