Think you've got your pup all figured out? Not so fast, if you believe any of these nine common myths about dogs.
Myth No. 1: A warm, dry nose signals a fever.
The temperature and moistness of your dog's nose has nothing to do with his health, says veterinarian Suzanne Hunter, DVM.
The only way to know if he has a fever is to take his temperature (usually with a rectal thermometer). It should be 100-102.5 degrees.
A better way to tell if your dog is sick is if he's not as hungry or active as usual.
Other signs of illness:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Urinating more or less often than normal
- Coughing and sneezing
- Discharge from eyes, ears, or nose
Myth No. 2: A dog's mouth is clean and sterile.
Not even close. Just think about where that mouth has been.
Most dogs "are willing to lick their own and other dogs' nether regions, steal cat feces from the litter box for a late night treat, and eat anything they can find on the ground," says veterinarian Julaine Hunter, DVM.
Myth No. 3: Raw meat is the best diet for dogs.
This may sound good in theory. But the reality is it's an unbalanced diet that can also be dangerous.
A raw-meat diet can leave dogs short on calcium and other nutrients, says Tina Wismer, DVM.
Raw meat is also risky because it can carry harmful bacteria, disease, and parasites.
Myth No. 4: Dogs can't digest grains.
"Contrary to popular belief, dogs' digestive systems are quite robust," says Hunter.
Corn, rice, and beets aren't just filler. They enhance a dog's diet with essential nutrients and protein when pre-cooked, which is typically the case with commercially-prepared dog foods.
"Dogs are omnivores and grains are a healthy part of their diet," Wismer says.
Myth No. 5: You should feed your dog according to the label instructions.
The label is just a starting point.
"An extremely active dog or one with a high metabolism may require more. A less active dog would need less food to avoid becoming overweight," says Mary Jo Wagner, attending veterinarian at Argosy University in Eagan, Minn.
Ask your vet what's right for your dog. If your dog is at a healthy body weight, you should be able to feel his ribs easily beneath the skin.
Myth No. 6: An excited dog is happy to see you.
"It's very easy to come home to a dog that is jumping, running around, or spinning in circles, and interpret that as the dog being glad you're home. But that's not what's really happening," says Cesar Millan, dog behaviorist and star of the TV series Dog Whisperer.
It's a sign that your dog has more energy than he can handle in that moment.
Millan's advice: Ignore him when he's overexcited, then reward him with attention when he calms down.
Myth No. 7: A dog urinates on the rug because he's mad at you.
It's not about anger.
"Often there is an underlying medical problem, like urinary stones or an infection," says veterinarian Roy Kraemer, DVM.
It could also be stress, anxiety, or a territorial issue. Whatever you do, don't respond with anger. That only makes things worse.
Myth No. 8: Female dogs should have one litter before being spayed.
If you're worried your dog will feel empty if she never becomes a mother, don't. That's a human emotion, Kraemer says. It's healthier for your pet not to wait before being spayed.
"Female dogs' chances of developing breast cancer and life-threatening uterine infections are greatly reduced by spaying prior to their first heat cycle," Hunter says.
Myth No. 9: Dog parks are totally safe and healthy.
Dog parks can be great fun, but there can be some risks. Parasites like fleas, ticks, and worms, and viruses like parvo and protozoa, can lurk in contaminated water and dog stool.
If your dog gets in a fight, that can also mean wounds and injuries. But, Kraemer says, most problems can be avoided by using common sense and paying attention to what's going on around you.