Think you've got your pup all figured out? Not so fast, if you believe any of these nine common myths about dogs.
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:
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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
Our thanks to Kara Mayer Robinson of WebMD and Amy Flowers, DVM for this article.