If you have a dog, want a dog, or simply freak out when you see one running in the park, then I think you'll agree — dogs are the absolute best. We all know they're sweet, loyal, and loving. But did you know their mere presence can lower your stress levels and help you live longer? Or that many have a vocabulary of nearly 1,000 words? These are just a few of the fascinating things you probably didn't know about dogs. And it all adds up to what makes them so wonderful.
The list of fun facts goes on from there, though, because dogs are complex beings with thoughts, feelings, and emotions. And many are intelligent to a somewhat creepy degree. "It is thought that the canine brain has intelligence roughly analogous to that of a two-year-old human child," Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH, of Animal Acupuncture, tells Bustle. If you've ever chatted with a toddler, then you know that's a pretty impressive level of self-awareness.
For all of these reasons and more, dogs are completely deserving of our complete love and adoration, as well as a moment of reverence for all the ways they are awesome. So, in case you needed 20 more reasons to be obsessed, here are a few fun facts.
1. They Have A Wide Range Of Emotions
Some people may think dogs are happy, and that's about it. But they actually have a complex range of emotions. They can experience frustration, excitement, and some even mourn the loss of other family pets. "Animals have a range of emotion as vast as humans," animal expert and holistic physical therapist Sally Morgan PT, CST tells Bustle. "The only limitation is our ability to understand and interpret them."
2. They're Altruistic
Dogs are pretty darn sweet to everyone they meet. But they can also be compassionate, too. "[A] study in Vienna about dogs and altruism showed that dogs would pull a string to give another dog a treat, especially for a dog he knew," Morgan says. "This shows that animals are hardwired to respond to others in need, and that they understand the needs of others."
3. They Can Help Predict Health Issues
Some studies have shown that dogs can predict certain health issues in humans. "Dogs can detect their owners will have seizures 12 to 24 hours before," says Dr. Marty, America’s foremost integrative veterinarian, in an email to Bustle. They can also help detect other scary health problems, like bladder cancer.
4. They'll Lower Your Blood Pressure
Petting a dog is just about the most soothing thing ever. But did you know doing so can actually lower your blood pressure? "Dogs impart many health benefits to humans," says Morgan. "In particular, they lower heart rates, blood pressure, and decrease stress levels." And that, my friends, is why you often see them hanging out in hospitals.
5. They Have Best Friends
Turns out dogs love humans, and other animals. But sometimes they do choose a best friend. "Anyone with a dog can attest to their dog's preferences for particular other dogs, and their dislike of some others," Morgan says. "Dogs are much more like us that we have ever previously realized."
6. They Help Cure Shyness
Have you ever latched onto a dog at a party, because you were feeling shy? As Morgan tells me, speaking to a dog can help shy people find their voice. And being with one can help boost your confidence, which is why it's so much more comforting to walk down a street with your dog by your side.
7. They Make You Better At Math
One study showed that having a dog nearby boosted math test scores. As Morgan tells me, this most likely has something to do with those decreased stress levels, which are always at an all-time high during exams, making mistakes easier to make.
8. They Encourage Kids To Get Along
"Dogs and other pets have been shown to help with pro-social behavior in a classroom, i.e. getting kids to be more cooperative, as well," Morgan says. So, we should probably have dogs in every classroom in America. Don't you agree?
9. They Are Individuals
Many of us think of dogs as pack animals, but they aren't. "Domesticated dogs are not wolves and should not be treated as such," says certified dog behaviorist and trainer Russell Hartstein, CDBC, CPDT-KA. "Instead treat them as unique individuals, with unique needs. Just as we are."
10. They Think In Smells
Dogs literally think in smells, which is why they need to sniff everything they see. "Dogs have 300 million scent receptors in their noses. By sniffing five to 10 times a second, dogs are able to flood these scent receptors and create a whole other worldly dimension, which is smell," says Dr. Wendy Hauser, AVP, of Veterinary Relations. "Dogs need to be allowed to experience this dimension, as it is part of their evolutionary make-up. The next time you take your dog for a walk, let them set the pace so that they can live fully in the moment."
11. They Form Scent Memories
There's a reason dogs are so great at sniffing out nefarious things. "They have incredibly sensitive noses and also use a much larger portion of their brains for analyzing smells," says Barrack. "It is presumed that dog’s associated scent with memories, hence why dogs can be trained to sniff for bombs or drugs."
12. They're Smarter Than You Think
Researchers in the field of canine cognition are using MRI scans to see what's going on inside inside the mind of a dog, and they're making all sorts of impressive discoveries. As Barrack says, "It is found that dog’s definitely can be trained to understand signals, commands, and recognize people and other animals."
13. They Can Help You Live Longer
OK, as if you needed on more reason to go adopt a dog, did you know that owning one can help you live longer? It's true, and especially so if you are single. "A recent Swedish study on 3.4 million people study showed that having a furry best friend lowered mortality risk," says animal-human health expert Carlyn Montes De Oca L.Ac., Dipl. O.M., M.T.O.M.
14. They Have A Pretty Big Vocab
"Dogs are very good at learning what human words mean," Hauser says. "There are estimates that most dogs understand about 50 human words. Some dogs have been proven to comprehend over 1,000 words." So go ahead and keep talking to your dog.
15. They Can Understand Multiple Languages
If you speak multiple languages, your dog will have no problem keeping up. "As a veterinarian, I have interacted with many dogs that not only understand a primary language, like English, but other languages as well, such as German and Spanish," Hauser says.
16. They Can Learn Sign Language
Your dog can learn sign language, too. As Hauser tells me, many working dogs and ones that compete in agility learn to rely on hand signals. And others can be trained to bark on command, or do other tricks based on a quick hand sign, which means they understand and "speak" this language.
17. They React To Our Emotions
Dogs are so connected to us that they often react to our emotions. "Owners that are nervous, angry, or frustrated telegraph those emotions through pheromones, body posture, and tone of voice to their pets," Hauser says. This is something to keep in mind when you go to the vet, since your dog will often react badly if you're nervous.
18. They Actually Enjoy Being Trained
If you feel bad about training your dog, or dragging him to a boring obedience class, don't. "Learning new things provides them with much-needed mental stimulation," Lisa Spector, a pet calming expert with iCalmDog, tells Bustle. "Dogs tire after a bit with exercise, but they tire more when they get to use their minds and their bodies. And, done with positive reinforcement, they live for their training time."
19. They Can Have Anxiety
Spector tells me one out of seven dogs in the US suffers from an anxiety issue. This can be remedied with a trip to your vet, who can help you decide what to do to help them feel better. But remember, sounds in your apartment can bother dogs, and they can feed off your energy, so make sure both are as calming as possible.
20. They Notice When You're Sad
"Dogs have an incredibly close bond with their owners and can often mimic their emotions," Barrack says. This is why your dog will get concerned when you're sad, and try to cheer you up. So sweet, right?
For all these reasons, I think we can agree — dogs truly are the best.