The six most common questions about dogs have answers that may surprise you.
Have you ever wondered whether dogs really see the world in black and white? Have you pondered whether the seven-to-one ratio is accurate when calculating Fido's age? Here's what experts have to say about these common canine mysteries.
Why do my dog's paws smell like stale popcorn?
Dogs have two ways of cooling themselves: by panting and by sweating through their paw pads. Their paws pick up bacteria from all the things they walk on, and when sweat from their pads interacts with bacteria, the distinctive smell results. The condition is so common it's been nicknamed "Frito feet," after the corn chip. It isn't harmful to the dog.
Why are dogs' noses cold and wet?
A dog's nose is slightly cooler than the rest of its body because it isn't covered with fur, and it feels cooler still because it's wet. The wetness is part of a complex sensory system. The droplets of moisture on the nose collect scent-laden molecules in the air. When the dog licks its nose, the dog tastes as well as smells the scents. Because a wet nose is more sensitive to air, the dog also gets an idea of which direction the scents are coming from. Estimates of a dog's sense of smell range from 500 to 10,000 times as keen as a human's, depending on the breed of dog.
Are dogs truly color-blind?
Dogs see colors, but don't see them as brightly or as intensely as we do. For dogs, it's like someone hit the great dimmer switch in the sky, making their vision more akin to what you would see if your were out walking at twilight. In darkness, however, dogs can see better than humans do.
Where did the practice of docking tails and cropping ears come from?
Docking tails grew out of a first century Roman belief that the small amputation could prevent rabies. Ear cropping was practiced on fighting and guard dogs so their ears would not be easy targets for attackers. Cosmetics and tradition are the only reasons these practices survive in America today. Ear cropping was banned in England over a century ago, and tail docking was banned in 1996. Both practices have also been banned throughout most of Europe, Canada, Australia and many other countries.
How smart are dogs?
While dog intelligence varies among individuals, the average dog is about as smart as a three-year-old child. Your dog can understand about 250 words and a range of human signals. The real answer to the question is that dogs seem to be as smart as they need to be. Many of Moscow's huge population of strays understand the subway system well enough to ride to their favorite foraging spots, and behave well enough while riding to avoid getting kicked off the train.
How can I calculate my dog's age?
Smaller dogs with lighter frames on average age more slowly than larger dogs with massive frames. The old standard of multiplying years lived by seven is inaccurate. All dogs are adolescents at 12 months and at 24 months are the equivalent of 24 years old. From ages 3 to 5, adding four years for each human year will give you the correct answer. From ages 6 on, size matters. For each human year, add four years for small dogs, five years for medium dogs, six years for large dogs and for giant breeds such as the great Dane and Irish wolfhound, add seven years.
Size and frame being equal, a mutt will generally live a year or so longer than a purebred, because the mutt's broader gene pool more effectively eliminates weaknesses. If you want to increase your dog's chances of a maximum lifespan, veterinarians in a recent survey agreed there's one primary step to take: prevent obesity. Carrying too much weight stresses your dog's joints and heart, and increases the likelihood of developing ailments like cancer and diabetes.
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