Amazing Things Dogs Can Do that You Might Not Know About

Picture of Jack Russell

Dogs have been impressing their owners with their intelligence, capacity to give and receive affection, and their loyalty since the first wolves decided to cast their lot with humans thousands of years ago. Until the last several decades, however, dogs haven’t attracted the interest of medical professionals and natural scientists. All of that has changed. As you will see by the examples below, scientists are finally realizing some of the Amazing things dogs can do!

  1. Can dogs really detect cancer in humans? The answer is Yes! Trained dogs can detect lung cancer and breast cancer by sniffing a person’s breath. Cancer cells give off different waste products than normal cells, and properly trained dogs can smell the biochemical markers in a person’s breath. Dogs can smell a skin lesion and tell whether it’s a skin cancer melanoma, and one study by the American Urological Association found that trained dogs are “98 percent accurate at detecting prostate cancer by smelling urine samples.”
  2. Seizure-response dogs are trained to alert parents or other responsible parties when their humans have a seizure. They can use a call-button near their human, or a special phone to call for help. They can guard their human during a seizure, protect them from injury, and roll them into a position in which they can breathe properly. Although scientists haven’t yet figured out how they do it, some seizure-response dogs can alert their human up to 20 minutes beforehand that a seizure is coming.
  3. Honeybees are vitally important not just for their honey but also because they pollinate food crops. In recent years, there’s been a drastic reduction in honeybee population. One of the major reasons for this reduction is a bacterium called American Foulbrood, which spreads from hive to hive killing the bee larvae. If located early enough, the hive can be treated with antibiotics. It takes a human hive inspector a whole day to check 50 hives, but, using the same training that enables them to search for and locate illegal drugs, dogs can search 100 hives in a single hour. They are trained to sit in front of a hive that is infected with the American Foulbrood bacteria.
  4. People with insulin-dependent Type 1 Diabetes have to be extremely vigilant about the level of their blood-sugar, as a sudden drop can cause them to collapse or even die. Some people have noticed that their dogs seemed to be able to sense dangerous blood-sugar changes. It turns out, they are right. Dogs can smell chemical changes in a person’s breath and skin caused by rapid changes in blood-sugar levels. Since 2004, an organization called Dogs for Diabetics has been training medical assistance dogs to detect the dangerous blood-sugar changes and then alert their humans or the parents of children with diabetes to the changes. These dogs are able to give back to people with Type 1 diabetes fuller, more active lives, and can give confidence to young adults leaving home for the first time.
  5. There are solid scientific reasons, such as their keen hearing and incredible sense of smell, that dogs can predict thunderstorms, tornadoes, and the approach of rain. Dogs can smell the ozone in the air from lightning before their humans see the flash, and, just like some humans, can smell the rain coming.
  6. Can dogs be used as an early warning system for earthquakes? Communities in Japan and China believe they can. One researcher believes that while dogs have no supernatural powers in this area, they may be able to hear the movements of rocks underground just before an earthquake. This same researcher noted that dogs with pricked ears were able to detect these rock movements much better than dogs with floppy ears.
  7. Dogs can definitely sense human emotions, especially the ones we don’t necessarily want them to sense, such as our fear when we encounter a strange dog we’re afraid is about to become aggressive toward us. How do they do it? When we’re afraid, we sweat, and our bodies release adrenaline. Once our blood is pumping faster, we emit pheromones, which are chemical molecules that float through the air. Dogs can smell all of these responses. They also pay close attention to our facial expressions, which tell them that we’re afraid. No fair, you say! Now that the dog knows you’re afraid and you know the dog knows you’re afraid, you become even more afraid!
  8. Contrary to myth, dogs can see colors. Their eyes have two cones instead of three, like ours, which means they can see blues and yellows but can’t tell the difference between red and green. Dogs also see in a kind of slow motion. Their eyes take in information more than 25% faster than us, making them extra talented at catching a ball or frisbee in the park.
  9. Dogs can see UV light, and don’t need a compass because they can sense the earth’s magnetic fields. One researcher asserted that they can hear some of the ultrasound waves that bats use to navigate in the dark.
  10. We know dogs have a powerful sense of smell. While we can almost smell a spoonful of sugar in a cup of tea, dogs are capable of smelling that same spoonful in two Olympic swimming pools’ worth of water.
  11. And last but not least, a dog can definitely tell when a woman is pregnant, because they can smell her hormonal changes. The dog can smell the amniotic fluid when her water breaks. And, from personal experience, I can say that dogs get very excited when the new baby comes home! My dog Bear stood up on his hind legs (something he had never done before) when I walked through the door carrying my son, started cleaning him immediately, and didn’t stop for 3 months! Who said Mommies always have to be female?

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