A wagging tail always means a happy dog
Though a wagging tail often does denote an excited or happy dog, that’s not always the case. A 2013 study that appeared in the journal, Current Biology, found that different types of wag speeds and placements mean different things. “For example, a vigorous tail wag to the right means happiness at seeing their owner, but slow wags of a tail held half-way down can mean fear or insecurity,” explains Jess Trimble, DVM, chief veterinary officer for Fuzzy Pet Health. “Additionally, a tail held very high and wagged extremely fast can mean fear or aggression for some dogs.” Tail wagging is just one way that your dog communicates with you—find out the other secrets your dog wishes they could tell you.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
“It is true that puppies are little sponges, making it so easy to teach them new things with gentle, positive reinforcement methods. But make no mistake, old dogs can learn, too,” says Trish McMillan, a certified animal behaviorist based in Mars Hill, North Carolina. “For example, the nine-year-old Doberman I adopted a few years ago earned her Canine Good Citizen title within a few months.” She notes that while extremely geriatric dogs may be a little trickier to train if they have vision, hearing, or mobility issues, as long as their brain is in good shape and are nurtured, they can absolutely be trained.
Dogs only see in black and white
This dog “fact” is arguably one of the most perpetuated myths out there, but it’s not completely true. “Dogs can see some color, but the spectrum is limited,” says Adam Christman, DVM, and co-chief of staff at New Jersey’s Brick Town Veterinary Hospital. “Humans and most other primates have three kinds of cones in our eyes, making us trichromatic, whereas dogs are bichromatic.” Because dogs are bichromatic, they do have a tendency to mix up greens and reds.
You should let dogs you’ve just met sniff your hand
This is a well-intentioned line of thinking, but a perpetuated myth nonetheless. In actually, you should not stick your hand out toward any dog you’ve just met. “In our human interactions, it’s second nature to offer a handshake or a fist bump, but we must remember that dogs aren’t humans,” says Guillermo Roa, a credentialed dog trainer and founder of GR Pet Services in Long Island, New York. “Sticking out your hand can be misinterpreted as a sign of aggression and a dog may bite you. It’s better to just calmly wait for the dog to approach you if it is interested in doing so. If you must approach a new dog, do it from the side and avoid staring.”
One dog year is equivalent to seven human years
Though dogs do age more quickly compared to us, the seven-to-one ratio isn’t quite accurate. “Their comparative age depends entirely on breed, size, and genetic makeup,” says Dr. Trimble. “The bigger your dog is, the faster he ages. I have patients that are 10-pound terriers that still act like puppies at 16 years and would be considered around 75 to 80 in human years. In contrast, a Great Dane at 16 would be a record and considered to be over 130 years of age.”