Myths follow us through life, from the idea that lightning won’t strike twice in the same place to the infamous penny thrown off the Empire State Building being lethal for an unsuspecting pedestrian below. Our dogs are no exception, being the subject of many myths themselves. As veterinarians, we want to correct as many misconceptions as possible so owners can steer clear of falsehoods and let their dogs live their best lives. Following are some of the most common we hear, and the truth behind them.
Myth #1 – Your Dog’s Nose is Trying to Tell You Something
It’s been said that a dog’s nose being cold, warm, dry, or wet is a tell-tale sign of something. However, veterinarians don’t know what that “something” is. A wet nose is considered normal, but a dry nose isn’t abnormal. The temperature and moistness of a dog’s nose is not an indicator of overall health, with some dogs just having naturally dryer or wetter noses than others. In some instances, dog owners may even find that it changes, with their dog tending to have a warm, dry nose after a nap or exercise and a wet nose while cuddling.
Myth #2 – Your Dog’s Mouth is Clean and Even Antiseptic
Everyone loves those sloppy kisses from their dog, but veterinarians will tell you the idea that it’s clean – and even antiseptic – is far from the truth since they carry more than 200 different types of bacteria in their mouth. While those kisses are certainly a sign of affection, that same tongue also serves the purpose of self-cleaning for your dog, including their private parts.
Myth #3 – Feeding Your Dog Human Food is Never a Good Idea
This myth gives veterinarians pause because quality pet food should contain a good amount of “human” food, such as chicken, beef, and grains.
Some human foods are toxic to dogs, such as:
- Onions and Onion Powder
Visit HumaneSociety.org for a complete list of foods that are toxic to dogs. There is no harm in sharing a piece of your apple or a thin slice of turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Cooked vegetables are also healthy foods for dogs.
Some healthy human food options for dogs are:
- Green beans
- Leafy greens
All of the above provide fiber and phytonutrients that are good for us and our canine companions. Talk to your vet about supplementing your dog’s diet with healthy human foods.
Myth #4 – Dogs Need to be Punished for Unacceptable Behavior
When our dog does something we don’t like, whether chewing our favorite sneakers or eliminating in the house, owners feel compelled to punish them. However, punishing a pet only leads to one thing – fear of their owner. It’s difficult for a dog to correlate your punishment to the action that made you upset, leading only to confusion and fear instead of the desired outcome of behavior correction. The more effective approach is redirection and positive reinforcement when they do good, and they’ll repeat only those good behaviors.
Myth #5 – One Human Year Equals Seven Dog Years
Among the most popular myths, veterinarians believe this misconception originated when the average human life span was 70 years old, and their dogs tended to live until approximately 10 years old. Simple math and owners deduced the “one human year = 7 dog years” theory. However, there is no actual data behind this theory, with research pointing to the fact that a dog’s lifespan is directly related to their size and chronologic age. Smaller dogs tend to live longer and therefore age more slowly than giant breeds.
Myth #6 – Dogs Should be Groomed Shorter in the Summer to Keep them Cool
While many dog owners follow this theory, thinking they’re doing their dog a favor and keeping them cooler in warm seasons, they’re not actually achieving the desired outcome for their dog. Dogs of all breeds have adapted to accommodate seasonal changes and will shed more or less at different times of the year to keep themselves comfortable in various types of weather. It is essential to keep dogs with long coats free of mats with regular brushing to help them shed properly. Cutting a dog’s hair too short in the summer could also lead to sunburns and sun-related skin cancers.
Myth #7 – You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
While training is never easy, any dog at any age can be successfully trained. It’s just a matter of repetition, persistence, and rewarding the desired behavior when your dog demonstrates it. Age is rarely the problem – it’s more likely a lack of consistency by the owner. A study was conducted on dogs under 1-year-old and dogs older than 10, all given the same trick to learn. While it took the older dogs twice as long to learn the trick, they did master it and retained the training long-term.
Myth #8 – All Dogs Despise Going to the Vet
We try not to take this myth personally. While there is a bit of truth to this one regarding cats, it’s simply not true that dogs feel tortured visiting their vet, as they enjoy an environment explicitly suited for them, and we give them loads of special attention and yummy food rewards. Veterinarians put a lot of effort into making visits a pleasant experience, so dogs trust us and allow us to approach them for thorough examinations. Veterinarians see plenty of wagging tails and receive plenty of dog kisses from their visitors – and many are excitedly greeted like a long-lost friend who has returned.
As a dog owner, if you read or hear something about dogs that makes you curious, just ask at your next appointment or call your veterinarian. We are here to answer all your questions and would rather clarify the facts than allow dog owners to assume anything about their dogs. If you have a pressing question, or perhaps your dog is overdue for their next well appointment, please give us a call!