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Spoiler alert: One dog year is NOT equal to seven human years.

Dogs have been man's best friend for thousands of years. But how well do we really know these adorable, furry friends? Do they really see in black and white? Are neutering and spaying bad for your dog? What does it mean when they eat grass?

Host Justin Dodd breaks down some common myths and misconceptions about the the BEST pets, dogs.

In 1937, a writer and dog enthusiast named  Will Judy wrote in a training manual that

dogs can only see in black, white, and  gray.

That line of thinking caught on

and for decades people believed that dogs lived  a colorless existence. But it turns out that,

though dogs are technically colorblind, they still  see *some* color, like most colorblind humans.

Hi, I’m Justin Dodd. Welcome to  Misconceptions. Not being able to see

any colors is just one misconception  about dogs I’ll be covering today,

from alpha males to wagging tails.

Let’s talk about some good boys. The colors dogs see are more muted than

the vivid hues most people see. Dogs  are dichromatic, meaning they have two

types of cones in their retina (humans, on  the other hand, have three).

According to

dog cognition expert Alexandra Horowitz,  “[Human] eyes respond to the colors red,

blue, or green . . . Dogs’ eyes pick up blue and  greenish-yellow. They don’t see red, or orange, or

yellow the same way we do.” For them, that bright  red fire hydrant they’re so inclined to pee on   “probably looks more like faint green,” according  to Horowitz.

It’s a bit like how a person with

red-green colorblindness might have trouble seeing  the true color of a bottle of ketchup. When you’re

shopping for Sparky’s birthday present, you may  want to stick with yellow and blue toys, since

they’ll have an easier time seeing those colors. If you’ve ever bragged that your 11-year-old  family dog is actually 77 in dog years—first

of all, weird brag.

Also: not really correct. You  were operating under the misconception that one

dog year equals seven human years, but there’s no  solid evidence behind that common claim. According

to the American Kennel Club, this misleading  idea has been around since the 1950s. It’s

thought that it arose because people at the time  realized that dogs generally made it to around

10 years old while humans lived to about 70.

It’s hard to predict a dog’s lifespan, though. Their breed and health will affect how long  they live. In general, smaller dogs tend to

live longer than larger ones.

Smaller breeds  are considered “senior” when they hit 7,

whereas bigger pups enter that category at around  5 or 6. In general, the average lifespan for a dog

under 22 pounds is a bit over 14 years, whereas  a dog 45 pounds or more may live to around 12. If you do want to do a bit of math to try to  compare human years to dog years, the people

at the American Veterinary Medical Association can  help: According to them, a mid-sized dog’s first

year actually equals about 15 human years.

Their  second year adds another nine human years, and

each subsequent human year equals about five dog  years. If all that math scrambles your brain,

just stick to saying your dog is a  cutie patootie stinky baby puppy prince,

no matter how old they are. If you time traveled to the 4th century  BCE and visited the Sanctuary of Asklepios

in Ancient Greece, you’d find more than  just human healers tending to the ill.

Dogs wandered around the sanctuary, too, and  they weren’t there for emotional support. The animals were there to lick people’s wounds. In ancient times, people thought dog saliva had

curative properties.

The idea can be traced  to Ancient Egypt, where pups were used to lick

sores or wounds in an attempt to heal a person  or rid them of disease. The Greeks caught on,

which is why Asklepios, the god of healing,  was often depicted with a canine companion. It’s thought healers of yore turned to dogs  after seeing them lick their own wounds.


their reasoning wasn’t entirely unsound: It’s been  suggested that licking can help remove debris, and

dog saliva does contain proteins called histatins,  which help prevent infection and encourage wounds

to close. But that’s not all that’s in there. If you’ve ever seen a dog snack on some old poop

or proudly carry around the dead rat they found  on the sidewalk, then you know their mouths aren’t

actually sanitary.

It’s commonly said that  a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. But

neither species has very clean mouths so  it’s like comparing a trash can to a slightly

dirtier trash can—like humans, dogs have over 600  different kinds of bacteria in their mouths. Among the bacteria typically swirling around  in a dog’s mouth is one called Pasteurella,

which can cause cellulitis, a skin infection  that can be fatal if left untreated.

So, if you or your beloved pup  wind up with any sort of wound,

it’s best to seek medical care from a  professional. Ignore the French saying   “langue de chien, langue de médecin,” or “a  dog’s tongue, a doctor’s tongue.” Neither

dog nor doctor should be licking you. This saying may apply to that relative who,  no matter how many times you try to help them,

just can’t seem to figure out how to set up  their new-fangled Alexa robot lady.

It doesn’t

actually work for dogs, though. Your pup can  learn new tricks at any point in their life. Age may even be an advantage: As two  veterinarians wrote for VCA hospitals,   “ .

Older dogs are not as easily distracted as  pups and can focus for longer periods of time. This ability to concentrate helps them learn new  routines more easily.” So, if your senior dog

never quite mastered “sit,” it’s not too late. All you’ll need is a lot of patience—and some

good treats for positive reinforcement.

In fact, learning new tricks and engaging

in different activities is probably good for  your older pet in the same way that puzzles

and word games are good for older people. In 2018,  a team of Austrian scientists published a study

showing that training senior dogs to play games  using touchscreen computers had the potential

to help maintain their cognitive skills. Speaking of training, it’s commonly said that  a person must be the alpha of their “pack.”

To maintain their “alpha” status, some trainers  will advise handlers to always eat first, walk

ahead of their dog, and sometimes even pin their  pup to the ground to enforce dominance.

But none

of these methods are actually backed by science. People tend to think that because dogs are

descended from wolves, they have the same  social structure. But domestic dogs don’t

have packs—strays may form social groups, but  those loose acquaintances aren’t the same as

the close bonds a wolf family shares.

And  wolf packs almost never have an aggressive

alpha who rules the others by force. In most  packs, the alpha pair are just the parents,

and their so-called “submissives” are the kids. And sure, some dogs may be aggressive, but that

isn’t the same as being dominant or “alpha.”  Aggressive behavior is usually caused by fear,

so trying to intimidate your dog into being a  subordinate won’t actually accomplish much and

will likely do more harm than good.

All dogs  should be treated like royalty and that’s just

a fact, I mean it’s science. If a dog approaches you with a wagging tail, don’t  immediately assume they’re happy to see you. It’s true that  tail wagging can mean friendliness, but that isn’t

always the case.

In general, when a pup holds  their tail slightly raised or horizontal to their

body and wags it, that is a sign of friendliness. A low tail wag, on the other hand, can signal

fear. And if a dog has their tail held high and is  shaking it so fast it seems to vibrate, that can

be a sign of extreme excitement or aggression.

If you see your dog chowing  down on a mouthful of grass,

don’t assume they have an upset stomach. The  animals eat grass for a variety of reasons. Some may LARP as lawnmowers because they have some  sort of dietary deficiency or need more fiber.

Some may use it as an antacid or to soothe an  empty stomach, while others may chew on grass

simply because they’re bored or because they  like the taste. Relatable. If a dog is feeling

lonely or neglected, it may even turn to eating  grass as a way to get their owners’ attention.

In general, if Fido wants to snack on  your lawn, it probably isn’t a cause for

concern—just keep an eye out and make sure they  aren’t accidentally ingesting dangerous plants

or harmful chemicals like pesticides. If you boop your dog’s snoot and it’s  dry and warm instead of cold and wet,

don’t worry. It’s not clear where the idea  that healthy dogs always have cold, wet noses

came from.

But anything other than a chilly,  damp nose isn’t a sign of illness. A healthy

dog’s nose can have a whole range of textures and  temperatures, which can change throughout the day,

and are often affected by the weather. Booping  a dog’s nose throughout the day, however,

is still recommended for everyone’s benefit.

Spaying and neutering dogs is an extremely  common—and largely safe—procedure. And thanks

to organizations that offer it for little-to-no  fees, it shouldn’t break the bank. And yet,

many people are still hesitant to neuter their  dogs, thanks in part to some old misconceptions

about the procedure.

But despite what you may have  heard, neutering your dog won’t turn it into a

terror—if anything, your dog will become easier  to handle, since they’ll no longer have to deal

with hormone-induced desires to find a mate, which  can lead to behaviors like fighting and roaming. And you don’t have to wait until your female  dog has had a litter to get her spayed—it’s

actually been shown that having the procedure done  before she reaches sexual maturity can reduce the

risk for some cancers by up to 85 percent. For  female dogs, it reduces the risk of breast cancer

and can completely eliminate the chance of them  developing uterine or ovarian cancer, depending

on the exact type of operation that’s done.

As with all medical procedures, though,

there are some risks. You should  talk with your veterinarian,

as spaying or neutering a dog too early could lead  to complications or raise their risk levels for

certain conditions. A dog’s size and age will help  determine the safest time to get them “fixed.” Cut those adorable Pitbull pups some slack.

There’s really no such thing as an “aggressive”

dog breed. A study published in Science in April  2022 found that a dog’s breed doesn’t completely

determine their behavior or personality. The  researchers asked the owners of 18,385 dogs about

their pets’ behavioral traits, then compared that  to the DNA sequencing of more than 2000 canines.

They found that just 9 percent of a dog’s  typical behavior is related to its breed. A dog’s environment and upbringing have a much  larger effect on how it’ll behave. A Labrador,

for example, may be timid and distant if it had a  bad start in life, despite the breed’s reputation

for being friendly and lovable.

A supposedly  aggressive Pitbull, on the other hand, may want

nothing more than to cuddle on your lap all day. Some breeds do have traits that are more closely

linked with genetics, however. Huskies have  a tendency to howl, and border collies are

a bit more inclined to take directions from  their humans.

Those are just general trends,

though, and don’t necessarily tell you  anything about specific individuals. Sorry, allergy-sufferers. No matter how much  money you spend, you’ll never be able to buy

a hypoallergenic dog.

They simply don’t exist. People tend to think that if a dog doesn’t shed,

then it’s hypoallergenic. And while a  non-shedding breed may alleviate some

people’s allergies, it doesn’t mean you’re  guaranteed to stay sneeze-free.

Breeds that

don’t shed a lot, like poodles, actually have  higher levels of Canis familiaris allergen 1—the

main dog allergen—in coat samples, compared to  high-shedding breeds like Labrador retrievers. Low-shedding breeds like poodles, Yorkshire  terriers, and Schnauzers might be better choices

for some people allergic to dogs—and those who  don’t want to constantly vacuum up dog hair—but

a truly hypoallergenic pup would need to  be non-shedding, spit-free, and skinless. Still adorable.

We’ll end with one for the lazy poop scoopers. No matter how tempted you are to leave your dog’s  waste in the grass or chuck it into the woods,

just don’t. Dog poop isn’t quite like cow or horse  manure.

Scientists *are* looking into whether

there’s a way to make productive use out of dog  feces, since it could reduce the environmental

impact of all those plastic bags going into  landfills. For now, though, more research is

needed to figure out if composting dog waste  is viable. What we do know is that it can be

full of nasty bacteria and parasites that  could potentially contaminate waterways,

and back-yard composts don't generally reach  the necessary temperatures to kill off those

harmful lifeforms.

So please, do everyone a favor  and dispose of your pet’s waste responsibly. We’ve got an upcoming episode  covering misconceptions about physics. If you’ve got a concept from the world of  physics that everyone seems to get wrong,

drop it in the comments below for a chance to be  featured in that episode.

Thanks for watching!