Google has just released its 2014 “Year In Search.” These results give us some insight into the pressing questions that dog owners, dog lovers, and the generally curious have asked of the search-engine behemoth over the last 12 months. Here at Dogster, we’re happy to present Google’s top 10 searches about dogs, along with brief answers! Everything you’ve wanted to know all year, all in one spot!
As good and responsible dog owners, we feed our dogs well-portioned and regular meals each day. Burying food, though, was often a necessity for our dogs’ wild and feral progenitors, who ate what they could when it was available. A successful hunt or foraging mission might yield more food than a dog needed. By burying bones, dogs could not only hide excess nutrients from scavengers, but also keep it fresher longer.
Whether it’s a chance meeting in the park or you’re bringing home a second dog, a first encounter between dogs can be a tense experience. Adopting a new dog? Introduce dogs at a neutral place, feed them in separate rooms once you’re home, and limit their interactions until a natural social order is established between them. Read more about the topic in “How to Introduce Your New Dog to Your Resident Dog.”
Is your yard starting to resemble the surface of the moon? Top suggestions I’ve encountered include filling them with distasteful organic material, such as your dog’s own feces or citrus peels, or things that are difficult to excavate, like large, flat stones. If your dog is burying bones or toys, remove them from the ground as soon as you notice freshly tilled earth.
The vast majority of my research suggests that boredom and lack of interactive play are often at the heart of compulsive digging. From training and exercise to teaching your dog tricks, each of the most recommended solutions requires your presence. No matter how many inanimate distractions we provide, nothing substitutes for quality time with your dog. Read more about the topic in “Why Dogs Dig and What You Can Do About It.”
For intimate knowledge of the world, dogs rely on the complementary senses of smell and taste. Your dog’s nose may be wetter immediately after exploring new terrain, playing with you, or eating. Why? The surface of a dog’s nose secretes a thin film of mucus that picks up particulates from the air and physical contact. These are gathered by the tongue, collected in the mouth, and processed by the brain.
The only part of a dog’s ear visible to the naked eye is the outer ear and the start of the vertical canal. Wax, dirt, and other particulates accumulate in the horizontal canal, which only your vet’s otoscope can discern. At home and without professional guidance, you can still keep the outer ear clean. Since dogs can be squirmy, home ear cleaning is most effective with two people: one to hold the dog and the other to clean.
Gently swab the visible areas of the outer ear using a cotton ball or gauze wrapped around your finger. These can be moistened with lukewarm water or hydrogen peroxide, after which the dog will shake out excess fluid and debris. There are specially formulated ear-cleaning solutions for dogs, but it is best to consult with your veterinarian on the proper usage and methods appropriate to your specific dog. Read more about the topic in “Cleaning Dog Ears.”
There is no simple answer for why dogs chase their tails. A study published in 2012, which examined more than 350 dogs, found that boredom was not a significant factor. While the findings weren’t conclusive, dogs taken early from their mothers and those with certain vitamin deficiencies were found to chase their tails more frequently and compulsively.
A dog’s whiskers, like those of a cat, are connected to touch-sensitive nerves rooted deep in the face. These connections serve as an extension of their sensory apparatus. Have you ever wondered how dogs can dash at top speed through even unfamiliar wooded areas without hesitation? Dogs have whiskers in part to sense approaching objects and avoid obstacles. Whiskers also give dogs a better sense of things too close to their faces for their eyes to focus on.
The most reductive answer is that dogs howl to communicate over distance. Dogs howl to summon friends and ward off threats. Dogs howl to attract attention when they are injured or feel neglected. They also howl in response to external stimuli, such as music or sirens. Here’s a piece I wrote earlier this year that goes into greater depth about each of these factors.
Yes, dogs do dream! Dog dreaming begins within 20 minutes of falling asleep. Smaller dogs tend to have more, but shorter, dreams, while larger dogs tend to have fewer dreams, but longer. Patterns of brain activity during mundane activities are repeated during sleep. In other words, dogs seem replay and process day-to-day activities in dreams just like we do. Further, a part of the dog’s brain stem inhibits movement during sleep, so dogs may twitch and yelp, but manage to avoid sleepwalking.
Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! According to Google, the most searched question about dogs during 2014 is…
Sorry to disappoint, but this one will likely continue to top Google’s dog searches for years to come. We have yet to find a definitive answer for why it is that dogs eat grass…or poop, or rubber ducks, or homework. The simplest and least satisfying answer is that dogs are omnivores who will eat anything. Typically, there’s nothing to worry about, unless that grass is treated with herbicides or pesticides. These chemicals may account for more dog vomiting than any self-imposed digestive cleansing instinct.
As mobile computing becomes not only more common, but increasingly voice-activated, it’s easier than ever to access an answer, even if that answer remains unsatisfactory or ambiguous. Google’s top dog-related searches in 2014 prove that while dogs have been living with humans for thousands of years, even their most basic habits continue to astound and befuddle. What questions would you like answers to? I’ll put them on the list of things to write for 2015!
Read more about these topics on Dogster: