We’ve all grown up hearing some myth or another about dogs and their behaviour. Many of these myths have evolved over time from truth, but after centuries of retellings, we’ve gotten the “Broken Telephone” effect of dog care. While some are ridiculous and relatively harmless, many of these are potentially dangerous for your dog, and to some extent you. We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most common myths about dogs that we’ve all probably heard over the years, and we are debunking them once and for all.
1. Certain dog breeds are prejudiced against some people.
This particularly pertains to people of colour, especially within the South African context. Amongst black people specifically, there is an innate fear of dogs, especially Alsatians, Rottweiler’s, any Bull Terrier variety, or large breeds that look threatening. There is a very deep and dark history behind how this fear became commonplace within the black South African community, and in essence it has trickled down through generations of people. These dog breeds were employed in the enforcement of Apartheid law for many years, therefore creating a complete distrust of dogs within the black community.
The important truth is that it is IMPOSSIBLE for a dog to bear prejudice against any one group of people naturally – they are trained to be this way. It is our responsibility as dog parents to not force our own biases against others onto our dogs. Be a better hooman.
2. Dog saliva has healing properties.
This myth all started with the belief that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human. Science disagrees. A dog’s saliva is more alkaline in pH balance than a human’s which makes it harder for certain bacteria to grow in such an environment, however, it is not antibacterial. One of the most common causes of skin infections in canines is from your pooch licking a wound or itchy spot too much. So if you let your dog lick your wounds, you should definitely follow that up with some antiseptic.
3. A warm, dry nose means that your dog is sick.
If you are worried that your dog might be sick, don’t rely on the nose myth. A warm, dry nose could be because of dry air, and is definitely not a concern, while a cold, wet nose could also just mean that your dog has rhinitis (inflammation of the nose). Instead, take a closer look at the skin on and around his nose. If you spot any cracks on the skin, or it simply looks different than normal, consult with your vet.
4. Garlic is a great natural remedy for ticks and fleas.
Natural remedies that tend to work for humans will not necessarily work for dogs. Garlic is a great remedy for a range of ailments for humans, but it can actually make your dog sick. Veterinary scientists have discovered that garlic has been known to cause an illness called haemolytic anaemia in dogs, which is a condition where the body attacks and destroys its own red blood cells. This is severely expensive to treat and can be fatal, so just avoid the garlic altogether.
5. A wagging tail means a happy dog.
It truly does warm our hearts to see the excited tail wagging of our dogs when we come home from work, but happiness isn’t the only reason that their tails are wagging. In Part 2 of our Speaking Dog 101 – Understanding Your Dog series, we explored all of the possible ways that our dogs could be communicating with us through their tails. For example, tail wagging can also indicate anxiety, nervousness and even frustration.
6. A dog should have a litter of pups before getting spayed.
There are varying opinions about spaying and neutering dogs. Here’s the thing: pet overpopulation is a huge problem that very easily can get out of control. There are so many shelters and puppy rescues that get full quickly for this very reason. If you are incapable of caring for these puppies, or you are not a licensed breeder, you might want to consider spaying and neutering your pups before the start of a heat cycle. Whatever you decide, be sure to consult with your vet.
7. Eating grass means that your dog is sick
Not necessarily. There is a small percentage of dogs that do vomit after eating grass (about 10%), but this doesn’t account for all dogs who do eat grass. Some dogs just like the taste, while others eat grass to help along digestion. In any case, your dog’s grazing behaviour is nothing to worry about, as long as the grass they are chomping on is not chemically treated.
8. Dogs need to eat like wolves
Nope. If that were true, there would be no need for dog food producers like us. This myth was born from the notion that dogs evolved from wolves, and that they need to eat like their ancestors in order to be healthy and strong. They may have the teeth for a raw food diet, but may end up missing out on essential vitamins and minerals that a healthy, balanced diet can provide.
9. Dogs age in “dog years”
This myth was most likely born through the study of canine development. A dog experiences their “adolescence” within their first year of life, and it happens much faster than that of humans, who only start puberty between ages 9 -12. Depending on their size, a dog can live up to 15 – 18 years. Having completed their life cycle, but it is no way similar to how humans perceive time and aging.
10.Dogs are colour-blind
Since humans can’t actually see what dogs see, there’s no real way to tell how this rumour was even started. On a structural level, a canine retina contains 2 of the 3 photo receptors needed to see colour, whereas human have millions of cones and rods in their retinas that help us see the world around us. Studies have shown that dogs can actually see in many different colours, albeit a smaller spectrum than we humans see.
Truthfully, myths evolve as we move through time, and have helped us humans make sense of the world around us for millennia. While some of the rumour we have encountered are just ridiculous, it is up to us to dispel the particularly dangerous one, especially when it comes to caring for our furbabies.
Are there any myths on this list that you’re encountering for the first time, or some that may have surprised you? Let us know!