An image of the back of a white and tan dog’s head. His ears are perked up.

7 Pawsitively Fun Facts About Dogs

Dogs are truly special animals. They are loyal, entertaining, affectionate, and soothing and love us as much as we love them. They are quite an extraordinary species. Let’s look at some interesting facts about dogs.  

1. They have an incredible sense of smell

We know dogs love to sniff. They gather a vast amount of information just from smelling. They can identify if a person is scared, if they have met a dog before and they can pick up scents on the ground or on fabric.  Dogs have this amazing sense of smell principally due to the number of smell receptors in their noses. To compare, humans have around 5-6 million smell receptors, whilst dogs have over 100 million in their nasal cavities. And not only do dogs have more receptors, but their brains are equipped to analyse smells better than ours. It is thought that the area of their brain that interprets smells is 40 times larger than that of humans.

If you thought those statistics were impressive, wait until you hear about bloodhounds. They are even more extraordinary when it comes to smelling. They have approximately 300 million smell receptors. And it is not just those receptors that make them incredible sniffers, but also the conformation of this breed of dog is designed to make them superior in the smelling department.

A close-up image of a bloodhound dog, with its folds of skin around its black nose and long floppy ears. It is wearing a black harness.

The folds of skin around their noses help trap scents, and those long, droopy ears sweep up even more smells. Their sense of smell and tracking abilities are so reliable that they have been used as evidence in courts of law.
As a bloodhound's long, drooping ears drag along the ground as he sniffs, they sweep up scents to the smell receptors in his nose.

2. They don’t have a great sense of taste

Whilst dogs have a much better sense of smell than humans, their sense of taste is less impressive. They can identify if something is sour, sweet, salty, spicy or bitter, but they only have around 1700 taste buds. Humans have about 9000 taste buds. Dogs’ fantastic sense of smell is what adds to their experience of food. This is why they love those smelly liver treats. An interesting fact about dogs is that research has shown that dogs prefer sweet-tasting foods and generally avoid salty, spicy, bitter and sour foods.

3. Dogs sweat but not as you might think 

It’s not strictly true that dogs don’t or can’t sweat; it is just that they don’t sweat in the same way we do. Humans have sweat glands all over our bodies to help us cool down. For dogs, it is a bit different. Dogs have 2 types of sweat glands, one is the same as the human sweat glands. On dogs however, these glands would be covered by a thick layer of fur, which would be pretty ineffective for cooling. Instead, these glands are primarily located on the pads of their feet. This is not an effective method of regulating their body temperature. The second sweat glands actually secrete scent pheromones (which are picked up by those amazing smell receptors!)  For a dog, panting is the most effective way to cool itself down. During panting, moisture from the tongue and the lining of the lungs evaporates and cools the dog down. 

4. Some dogs have blue tongues

Chow Chows and Shar-Peis have distinctive and unusual blue tongues. These ancient breeds from China go back nearly 2000 years. There is no known reason for them having this unique feature.

A red chow chow dog with his mouth open displaying his blue/black tongue.

There are some interesting tales, such as when the world was created and the stars were placed in the sky, the chow chows licked up all the little bits of blue sky that fell to the ground, or that chow chows were descended from bears. These are both sweet notions, but tales nevertheless. Other species share the peculiar blue tongues- giraffes, bears and certain breeds of cow.
Chow Chows are known for their unusually coloured tongues.

5. Dogs differ in size more than any other species of mammal 

When we think all about dogs, we often think about their different shapes and sizes. There is virtually a type of dog to suit everyone, whether you are looking for a little one, or a not-so-little one. The smallest dog breed is the chihuahua, but the smallest dog ever was a Dwarf Yorkshire Terrier called Sylvia. According to the Guinness World Records, she stood 7.11cm tall ( to the shoulder) and was 9.5cm long (from nose to tip of the tail). The biggest dog was a Great Dane named Zeus, who was 1.118m tall, but when he stood up, he was 2.23m tall, that’s 7ft 4 in!

6. They can give cheetahs a run for their money

Dogs love to run. Some are faster and more energetic than others. The fastest breed of dog is the greyhound. Their top speed is an impressive 35mph. To add to this already remarkable statistic, they can maintain this pace for an incredible 7 miles. A cheetah is the fastest land animal, with an amazing top speed of 70mph; however, only for a burst of 30 seconds. A greyhound would catch the cheetah in a long-distance race and then pull ahead.

7. Dogs can hear a vast range of frequencies

A dog’s hearing is four times better than humans. Their ears can move independently of each other, aided by at least 18 muscles. Each ear can rotate, lift and tilt to pick up sounds. The ear canals are deep and L-shaped which helps funnel sound down to the eardrum.  They can hear frequencies with an extensive range of 67hz- 45,000hz. This means that dogs can hear ultrasound noises that humans can’t. Some of these sounds can come from the electronics we have in our homes, such as the television, computers or ultrasonic humidifiers.

An image of the back of a white and tan dog’s head. His ears are perked up.

If your house sounds quiet to you, it may still sound pretty noisy to your dog with all that tech buzzing away.
Dogs ears are designed to funnel as much sound as possible towards the eardrum.

Author: Gillian Davidson,  RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse), Scotland.

Author: Gillian Davidson,  RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse), Scotland.

Gillian began working in a veterinary practice in 2007 and qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2011. Gillian has worked in various animal practices in the West of Scotland, and is particularly interested in behaviour medicine and weight management. Gillian has also been a clinical coach for student veterinary nurses for 10 years. 

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