Do you know all the coolest characteristics about dogs?

It’s no secret I’m a dog person—I’ve lived with a dog by my side since I was 4 years old. And as any dog caregiver knows, dogs are smart, fun, complex, interesting, and generally awesome creatures. The more time I spend with them, the more in awe I become. 

Here are 13 of the coolest characteristics about dogs!

Some of these are super surprising and these are scientifically-backed characteristics about dogs. 

1. Dogs can read our emotions

Yep, dogs can tell if we’re happy, sad, or angry. A recent study about how dogs can read our moods found that dogs’ emotional centers in the brain light up in response to happy barks or joyful laughs. And, if you have a dog, you already know that it’s true. Over the years, having had three dogs, I can tell you that all three of them were tuned into my emotions.  Plus, if I needed extra love, they were there, ready to lend a paw, share a hug, or rest a chin on my leg.

a golden retriever dog gives his owner a hug in one of the coolest characteristics about dogs, they can read our emotions

2. Dogs prefer new toys to old toys.

This ties into the fact that dogs are intelligent creatures and they are interested in new things (called “neophilia”)—new smells, new tastes, new shapes, new textures, and the like. That’s why they play with new toys and get bored of old ones. A recent study about dogs preferring new toys found that dogs definitely respond more positively to novel toys over familiar ones. Check out this great article with 20 of the best dog puzzle toys.

3. For dogs, yawns are contagious.

Just like us! So next time you open wide and yawn, take a sneak peek at your dog to see if he copies you. Hilariously, he probably can’t help but yawn, too! This study also found that dogs, like us, can tell the difference between a real yawn and a fake yawn.

black and white french bulldog yawning as dogs characteristics tell us yawns are contagious for them too

4. Oxytocin spikes in both species when dogs and humans share a mutual gaze.

This explains why when we meet eyes, I feel like we really are bonding and connected. The scientists doing the oxytocin study on dogs and humans even compared it to “human mother-infant relations.”

a woman and her puppy look into each others eyes and it spikes their oxytocin

5. Dogs feel jealousy.

Jealousy is a very humanlike emotion, and it amazes me that dogs really can and do feel it. Of course, any dog owner could have told the researchers this (including me), but it’s nice to know that dog jealousy is backed by science. It’s something to be mindful of if you have multiple pets, a new member of the family, or any other situation that may upset your pup.

If these fun characteristics of dogs are interesting to you so far, maybe you’d like to go even deeper into the dog-person world of connection and communication. Connecting with dogs and all sorts of other animals is what we do here at Animal Reiki Source and with our Let Animals Lead® Animal Reiki courses and other offerings, we can teach you how to deepen your connection with your pup. We offer courses, books, online workshops, in-person immersion days and so much more. Our mission is to teach as many people as possible how to foster healing connections with their pets and other animals around them.

Read on for more fun and quirky dog characteristics!

6. Dogs know when people are lying.

And, as a result, they stop listening to the person they deem untrustworthy. Again, anyone who has a dog knows this one, but this study about dogs being able to detect lies reveals just how sophisticated dogs are when it comes to social cues.

7. Dogs can smell cancer.

It’s true. They even have dogs who have been trained to sniff people and alert doctors if there is cancer present! My dog Mystic alerted me to my cancer when she was just three months old! Dogs have such an amazing sense of smell. And after a decade or so of research, the evidence is piling up to suggest that dogs can smell the chemical differences in healthy tissue vs. that which is cancerous. The Penn Vet Working Dog Center works with four trained canines in its nanotechnology research for cancer detection; and in this study, dogs detected prostate cancer correctly 90 percent of the time. Amazing!

8. Dogs align with magnetic fields when going to the bathroom.

Hilarious, but true! A study found that dogs do their business on a north-south axis. Since my dog only goes in one tiny place in my yard, I must have lucked out and randomly placed it perfectly according to the earth’s magnetic fields.

9. Dogs are awesome stress-busters in the workplace.

More and more offices these days are allowing employees to bring their pooch to work with them. And, according to a bazillion studies, employees lucky enough to have dogs by their side are happier, less stressed out and communicate better with co-workers, which leads to higher productivity. Plus, dogs bring people together so it probably also elevates the office collective mood!

a man points out something on his computer to the office dog who is sitting in a chair in the office

10. Dogs avoid people who are mean to their people.

I love that my dog always has my back! And those with “guard dogs” experience amazing levels of loyalty as well. And this interesting study proves that dogs don’t like it when people are mean to their owners. In the study, when dogs observed another human not helping their human caregiver or being nice to them, the dogs then snubbed the “mean” person offering them a treat (and took a treat from a stranger instead). How’s that for loyalty!

11. Dogs are calmed by classical music.

I love using animal Reiki to calm stressed out and anxious dogs (and all animals, really). But this study about classical music and dogs shows that they are sensitive to music as well. If your dog gets lonely while you’re at work all day, it wouldn’t hurt to play a little Mozart in your absence. Imagine, too, how playing classical music could improve a chaotic shelter environment.

12. Dogs prefer to earn their treats.

Just like how we humans feel good after figuring out a complicated task, dogs, too, get excited when they have the opportunity to solve a challenging problem in exchange for a treat. Smart puppies! The added bonus of this is that dogs who are taught to earn treats actually follow their humans more loyally.

a woman teaches her pup to high five and gives him a treat because dog characteristics show they like to earn their treats

13. Dogs would rather you pet them instead of praise them.

Sure, it’s nice of you to say, “Good dog!” But as scientists and many dog trainers have discovered, dogs really do love their pets, even more than vocal praise, so if you want to make them feel really special, give them a bunch of cuddles instead.

Now that you’ve read about some of my favorite dog traits, what are your favorite characteristics about dogs?

If you’re interested in learning more about your dog and ways you can connect more deeply, check out these other blogs about dogs and Reiki:

Top Tips for Practicing Animal Reiki

Becoming Animal-centric in your Reiki Approach

11 thoughts on “13 of the coolest characteristics about dogs”

  1. Hi Kate,
    Thank you for this article, I can not have a dog for living in an apartment, but I love the Golden Retriever dog, I enjoyed reading this article

  2. This article is spot on and so true. Not only is having a dog a great companion and superb for protection. But a useful tool when getting to know someone. Someone whom you may consider allowing into your family. A dog, usually can sniff out bad energy.

  3. Larry Goldstein

    Hello Kathleen, I also love animals and have 2 Dogs Goldy-Golden Retriever 11 yrs-issues with his hind legs n ears, n Mikaela 22 weeks Puppy German Shepherd taking classes. I’d love to travel for your classes but I can’t now n it’s expensive also. But I’d like to take them either online, or closer to NY, NJ, PHILA where I live Hope too meet you someday as you do Great work educating others who care about animals n pets, Larry G

  4. Great information for me, which I have shared on my twitter feed too. You are truly helping transform the planet to a more loving place towards seeing the sentience of our animal friends. Bless you for all you do.

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