old dog with glasses on

For centuries now there have been stories about dogs that have gone on to become truths in some people’s minds when in fact they are just old wives tales. So which of these old wives tales are more fiction than fact. 


1) Giving you dog garlic or onion will prevent worms and fleas 

FICTION – Onion and garlic do not prevent fleas or worms but both onion and garlic are toxic to dogs as they can cause anaemia. 

2) Giving a dog sugar, will give them worms 

FICTION – Worms are creatures that breed and do not come from sugar or that sugar cane plant that sugar is derived from. 


3) A warm or dry nose suggests that a dog is sick 

FICTION – At some point in time, people decided that a cold, wet nose meant that a dog was healthy while a warm or dry nose indicated illness. 

In actual fact, sometimes a warm/dry nose is complexly normal, for example if the dog has just woken up. However, if a dogs nose is constantly dry and crusted it could be a sign of ill health and would be the time to follow up with a veterinarian. 

Distemper, although not as common any more, is a condition in which thickening and drying of the nose and foot pads is a symptom, so it’s definitely worth following up on any nose related concerns. 

4) A dog’s mouth is clean and licking a wound will cure it 

FICTION – Some people believe that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth and for this reason have not been worried about a dog licking their face or eating food from their plate. This idea probably originated when people observed that dogs lick their wounds and sometimes they heal faster because of it. 

If a wound did heal faster it was more likely because the dog’s rough tongue helped to remove dead tissue and stimulate circulation to the area. On the other hand, licking the wound may cause more harm than good, with the rough tongue causing irritation and introducing bacteria to the wound. 

A dog’s mouth is full of bacteria and dirty things that they have eaten or licked at throughout the day. Most dogs don’t get their teeth brushed as regularly as humans so there is plenty of tartar and bacterial growth – hence the doggie breath! Thankfully, most of these germs are dog specific and are harmless to humans. 

Old wives tales

5) Female dogs should have one heat cycle or even have one litter before being spayed 

FICTION – The main reason for spaying or neutering pets is to control the population of unwanted pets. 

While some believe a dog would feel some kind of void if she didn’t experience having a litter, others feel that there are long term health benefits to having a heat cycle/litter. 

Dogs do not experience the same range of emotions as humans, so a female dog will not feel like she is missing out if she doesn’t bare pups. 

From a health perspective, there is no evidence to show that having a heat cycle/ litter is beneficial. Rather, it has been shown that spaying before the first heat cycle virtually eliminates the possibility of the dog developing breast cancer in older age. 

Fetch by WebMD has some great further information on spaying and neutering pets. 

6) A 1 year old dog is 7 years old in human years 

FICTION – Dogs have a different lifespan to humans but working out their comparable age isn’t as simple, as just saying, 1 dog year is equivalent to 7 human years. Making a ratio between the average dog lifespan versus the average human lifespan doesn’t correctly describe the rate at which dog’s age. 

Dogs age at a faster rate than humans, with aging being quiet rapid in the early years and slowing later in life. Lifespan also vary depending on the breed of the dog, with small dogs living 15 – 20 years while large breeds can expect 7 – 10 years. 

As lifestyles change and medical knowledge advances, the dog to human age ratio tends to be reviewed and updated every few decades. The current understanding suggests that a one year old dog is equivalent to a teenage human and a 2 year old is comparable to a 25 year old human. Every year after that is about 1 to 4, suggesting that a 10 year old dog is about 57 human years while a 15 year old dog is equivalent to a 77 year old human. 

7) Dogs only see in black and white (and shades of grey) 

FICTION – This is one myth that many people believe to be true but with advances in science it is now known to be false. Scientists now have a better understanding of the canine eye and the function of the cones. While dogs see the world differently to humans they can in fact see colour. Based on the types of cones that are found in the canine retina, it is likely that they see colours best that are on the blue side of the spectrum. It is thought that dogs mainly see blue, greenish-yellow and yellow along with various shades of grey. Based on this, colour vision in dogs is similar to red-green colour blindness in humans. 

8) Dogs eat grass to make themselves vomit 

FICTION – It is most likely that dogs eat grass simply because they like it and not because they need to induce vomiting. Perfectly healthy dogs eat grass regularly and at times it causes vomiting but it is not a sign that they have an illness. If a dog has eaten enough grass to cause stomach irritation, this is when vomiting will occur. If grass eating has led to chronic vomiting it would be best to visit the vet.   


9) You can’t teach an old dog new tricks 

FICTION – As dogs age they often loose interest in new activities and aren’t as responsive to training. They simply might not be interested in trying something new but it doesn’t mean that’s it’s impossible to learn a new skill. An ageing dog may not hear as well as he once did or may be lacking energy, so keep it simple and fun if you want to teach your senior dog something new. 

10) A wagging tail means a happy dog 

FICTION – Dogs do tend to wag their tails if they are feeling happy or excited but tail wagging can also occur for other reasons. Sometimes a dog may wag his tail out of fear, anxiety or even aggression. It’s important to look at the dog’s body as a whole to read their body language and interpret their mood.  

These old wives tales have proven to be a whole lot of fiction and have created a lot of misconceptions about dogs. Let us know if you have other myths you’ve heard and your take on their credibility?

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