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13 of the coolest characteristics about dogs

Updated: Jun 24

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.

a toddler holds the leash of a shepard mix and crouches beside him in the grass smiling

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 dog licks a mans face as they both laugh showing that one of the coolest characteristics of dogs is 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.

two golden retrievers play tug of war with an orange tug dog toy

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.

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 golden lab looks into the eyes of his owner as they sit on the grass

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.

a siberian husky in the snow with its ears back listening and an im not impressed look

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!

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.

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:

And if you want to learn how to connect with any animal—not just your dog—on an energetic level or how to build lasting trust bonds with your canine companion, check out our 3-Day Challenge! One hour each day for three days to learn some of the techniques we use to calm shelter dogs and ease their stress and help all animals live better lives!

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