8 Incredible Facts About Dogs That May Surprise You

From sweaty paws to detecting cancer, you won’t see your dog in the same light once you check out our surprising facts about them.

Jun 9, 2024By Lisa Szymanski
incredible facts about dogs that may surprise you

Dogs are known as man’s best friend, but they’re also super sniffers, vivid dreamers, and share their intelligence with two-year-old children! Our fur friends are actually unbelievable animals capable of immense feats, from rounding up farm animals to saving lives on treacherous rescue missions. But you may not be aware of their ability to detect cancer in humans or that you can find a dog breed that can’t bark. Let’s get straight to it by delving into 8 incredible facts about dogs that may surprise you.

1. Dogs Have an Astonishing Olfactory System

german shepherd smelling a red rose
Dogs have super noses!

Did you know that dogs have around 200 million sniffing sensors in their noses? Compared to us humans, we only have 400 of these olfactory receptors. So, if your dog can find their favorite treats hidden inside your cupboards, you know why! Some dog breeds have better sniffers than others. Take the bloodhound, for example. These long-eared and droopy-eyed dogs have approximately 300 million scent cells in their large noses. It’s believed that their superior scent-tracking skills are used to support criminal investigations. In addition to bloodhounds, other dog breeds, such as German shepherds and pointers, are specialized trackers in anti-poaching campaigns and cases involving missing people.

2. Dogs Sweat Through Their Paws

dog paw next to human hand
Dogs cool down by panting and releasing very little sweat through their skin.

Dogs have apocrine sweat glands across their bodies, but these glands don’t help with cooling and are responsible for giving your pooch a distinct odor. Their main sweat glands, which function similarly to those in humans, are found in their paw pads. In the heat of summer, you might feel moisture on their feet or notice wet patches where they’ve walked. Apart from your dog’s sweaty feet, they can also have smelly feet. When the moisture on their toes combines with dirt and bacteria, it produces a corn chip smell on their paws. If you’ve ever thought of nachos after hanging out with your dog, it’s probably because you’ve got a whiff of their corn chip feet!

3. A Greyhound Can Beat a Cheetah

greyhound running on sand track
Greyhounds are one of the fastest dogs in the world.

There’s no doubt that the cheetah is one of the fastest animals on the planet. Their long slinky bodies and powerful limbs are built to propel them across the plains, helping them reach a speed of 75 mph. While the speed of a cheetah is simply unmatched, these big cats cannot sustain it. The African cat can run at top speed for less than 0.3 miles, while greyhounds can maintain around 40 mph for several miles. If a greyhound had the opportunity to race a cheetah over a few miles, they would reach the finish line before the spotted cat.

4. Puppies Can See Before They Can Hear

labrador puppies huddled in a basket
Puppies cannot hear for the first few weeks of their lives.

When puppies first make their way into the world, they can’t see or hear. By 14 days, their eyes will open, but they still can’t hear anything. Hearing is one of the last senses to develop and only kicks in at 3 weeks of age. At 4 to 5 weeks, puppies are highly stimulated by the sounds around them and pay attention to every noise, even the ones that you might not be aware of. Dogs have excellent hearing, and that’s because their ear canals form tubes right down to their eardrums to amplify sound. It’s also the reason that dogs are so frightened by loud bangs such as thunder or fireworks.

5. Dalmatians Don’t Have Spots When They’re Born

dalmatian running in snow
Dalmatians develop their spots over time.

Who can forget the classic character Cruella Deville and her pursuit of the beautifully spotted 101 Dalmatians? Surprisingly, Dalmatian puppies are born with snow-white hair. Some of them may have a spot or two on their skin, but most Dalmatians only develop their patterned coat by 10 days old. These spots will continue to appear until over a year of age. There’s no scientific reason for this, but what researchers do know is that the number and pattern of spots are predetermined. Another interesting fact about this breed is that a percentage of Dalmatians suffer from congenital deafness a few weeks after birth.

6. Dogs Can Detect Cancer

black medical detection dog sniffing samples
Dogs can be trained to detect viruses, bacteria, and cancer.

One of the most astonishing facts about dogs is their ability to sniff out cancer. Research shows that dogs can smell the odor of different cancers in the body, including breast and lung cancer. Medical detection dogs are trained to pick up the scent or odor signature of a specific type of cancer in urine, breath, and the skin. As an example, a study revealed how a dog could distinguish between patients with lung cancer and those without, by sniffing their breath. A dog’s unbelievable ability to save lives through the early detection of certain cancers certainly adds new meaning to the phrase “man’s best friend.”

7. The Basenji is a Dog That Can’t Bark

basenji puppy on a bed
Basenjis can’t bark but they can yodel.

The long-legged Basenji might not be equipped to bark, but they are described as the yodelers of the dog world. Appropriately named “The Barkless Dog” these canines produce a sound similar to yodeling rather than a traditional woof. That’s because a Basenji doesn't have a very developed larynx, and this stops the vocal cords from vibrating enough to produce a bark. It might have been a deliberate part of their breeding using specific African dogs. Basenjis hail from Egypt, where they were given to the Pharaohs as gifts. These alert-hunting dogs have quite independent personalities and are also known to clean themselves the way cats do.

8. Dogs Have the Intelligence of Two Year Old Children

clever golden retriever balancing a biscuit on their nose
With patience and love, you can teach your dogs amazing tricks.

Have you ever wondered why your dog seems to be jealous when you show other pets or people affection? Maybe you’re surprised by the way they seem to listen to or tune in to your emotions when you’re feeling sad. According to a study on canine intelligence, dogs have the IQ of a two-year-old child. They can pick up on emotions and understand basic commands, but the rate at which they learn information will depend on the breed of dog.

Now that we’ve covered 8 incredible facts about dogs, I’m sure you’re surprised at how unique and smart our canine companions are. So the next time you get impatient with Fido, think of all the incredible things they’re capable of.

Lisa Szymanski
By Lisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the "queens of the yard," Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.