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11 Amazing Facts About Dogs You Might Not Know

Boost your dog smarts with these cool facts.

by Claudia Kawczynska
November 18, 2021
A black dog holding its paw up to a woman's hand.
Photo: Irina Efremova / Stocksy

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How much do you really know about dogs? Did you know that dogs can sniff out cancer? Probably. But did you know that they can even smell the passage of time? Yep, it’s true. Here are 11 incredible dog facts that you probably don’t know.

1. They have an incredibly fast sniff rate.

A dog breathes in and out around 15 times per minute when sitting calmly, compared to a typical human who breathes out 12 to 20 breaths per minute. A dog's breathing frequency goes up to 31 times per minute while walking. But when a dog is actively sniffing, the inhalation/exhalation rate goes up to 140 to 200 times per minute.  

2. Dogs communicate with more than vocals.

Dogs do communicate with each other when they vocalize, bark or growl. But a more common means of communication between dogs is body language—an upright or tucked tail, forward ears or tense body can speak volumes.

3. Petting sessions relax shelter dogs.

Researchers have confirmed that a quiet, 15-minute petting session can relax a shelter dog and result in positive behavioral and physiological changes.

4. Humping is more common among males.

Studies from dog parks recorded that humping, or more politely, mounting was 16 times more frequent in male-male pairs as compared to female pairs.

5. How a dog greets varies by sex.

Female dogs are more likely to greet other dogs by smelling the snout/muzzle first, while males go for the anogenital region. (You might be able to sex the dogs who greet your dog based on this behavior alone.)

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6. Female dogs are better smellers.

Is it true female dogs are better at smelling than males? The experts who wrote K9 Scent Training observed that to be the case, and Alexander Horowitz added that women are often keener “smellers” than men.  

7. Paw preference may correlate to personality.

Dogs who show paw preference and those who are reported to be right-pawed are associated with lower arousal and calmer responses to novel stimuli and strangers.

8. Dogs are individuals.

Not all Retrievers like to play fetch or Pointers point at things. In fact, the seminal research, Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog, states that there is often greater variability between dogs within the same breed than between breeds in temperament and talent .

9. Dogs are way better smellers than us.

Dogs have 125 to 300 million olfactory cells (compared to our 5 million), and 33% of their brain is dedicated to interpreting odors. Frank Rosell, scientist and author of Secrets of the Snout, estimates that a dog’s nose is between 100,000 and 100 million times more sensitive than a human’s.

10. Gazing is good for both of us.

A dog gazing into our eyes, and us looking into theirs, showed a marked increase in oxytocin (the “love” hormone) levels in both humans and dogs. This is similar to mother-infant relationships.

11. Dogs can smell the passage of time.

According to researcher and author Alexandra Horowitz, “Dogs smell time.” Because of their extremely sensitive noses, dogs can smell the way odors change over time. They smell time as a complex layer of both new (stronger) and old (weaker) smells.

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Claudia Kawczynska

Claudia Kawczynska was co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Bark for 20 years. She also edited the best-selling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot.