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American Staffordshire terrier puppy

Dogs are as clever as toddlers

American Staffordshire terrier puppy

Our best friends are full of surprises, from super-powered noses that can smell illness to dogs that use the subway to get around. Here’s fifteen facts about our canine counterparts

Dogs are as smart as toddlers  

Studies have indicated that dogs are intelligent enough to understand up to 250 words and gestures, as well as numbers up to five and simple mathematical calculations. The average dog is as intelligent as a two-year-old child.

It’s a myth that dogs are colour blind, they can only see colours very faintly – as well as humans can during dusk

There’s a Beatles track just for dogs

The Beatles song A Day in the Life contains an extra high-pitched whistle on the track that’s only audible to dogs. The whistle was recorded onto the track by Sir Paul McCartney as a tribute to and for the enjoyment of his pet Shetland sheepdog.

A dog’s nose is as unique as a human fingerprint, with no two being the same.

Munich, Germany --- Dog swimming in water --- Image by © Daniel Reiter/Stock4B/Corbis
A dog’s nose is very powerful and is unique to each dog

 

Hugs aren’t for them

While a lot of us enjoy hugging our dogs, canines don’t enjoy getting a cuddle as much as humans and other primates. Canines interpret putting a limb over another animal as a sign of dominance, something dogs won’t always accept.

 

Dogs turn in circles before lying down in the wild as this movement flattens long grass into a bed.

Dogs have powerful noses

The canine sense of smell is incredibly powerful compared to humans, though does vary among breeds. While humans have around five million smelling cells, alsatians are believed to have around 220 million. Sniffing out almost anything is never much of a problem.

The oldest dog on record was an Australian cattle dog called Bluey who lived for 29 years

cattle dog
An Australian Cattle Dog, like this one, lived for nearly 30 years

Dogs can smell illnesses

If you have a certain strain of cancer, diabetes or epilepsy, your dog might already know, as studies have shown that they can be trained to sniff out these illnesses. Scientists believe this could be due to dogs sniffing out abnormal proteins.

Some stray dogs in Moscow have learned to use the city’s subway system in order to travel to busier areas in search of food scraps.

Dogs have three eyelids

The eye of a dog consists of three lids: an upper, lower and a third lid, called a nictitating membrane or haw. This third lid is designed to keep the eye both moist and protected from foreign bodies.

All dog breeds, despite their variations, are the direct descendants of wolves and as a result any can mate together easily

All dogs are descended from wolves

A weaker sense of taste

Dogs depend more on their strong sense of smell, rather than their sense of taste, to differentiate between types of food. In fact, humans have almost five times the amount of taste buds that dogs do, so it’s no wonder that dog food isn’t very appealing to us.

Dogs drink water by turning the underside of their tongue into a cup in order to scoop up liquid.

Dogs are some of the most diverse mammals on the planet

From the Bassett hound to the golden jackal, dogs show off an incredible diversity in body shape and size. A study showed that the difference between some breeds’ skulls is as profound as the difference between some mammal species. It showed that a collie skull is as different from a Pekingese as a cat skull is from a walrus, for instance.

17 Apr 2013, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana --- Africa, Botswana, Moremi Game Reserve, A pack of Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) warily approach remote camera near banks of Moremi River --- Image by © Paul Souders/Corbis
Dogs are amazingly diverse with huge differences in shape and body size

 

 The oldest intact fossilised remains of a pet canine date back 33,000 years and were discovered in Siberia during the 1970s.

Dogs have a weasel heritage

The evolution of modern-day dogs can be traced back around 40 million years to the weasel-like Miacis, an animal genus that lived in trees and dens. The miacis later evolved into the Tomarctus, believed to be a direct relation of the genus Canis, that includes wolves and dogs.

This article originally appeared in World of Animals issue 2, written by Martyn Landi

Also read:

Cats vs Dogs: Which is best?

Dog science: Why do dogs have such a good sense of smell

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