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Incredible Things You Never Knew Dogs Could Do

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Everyone knows that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Beyond the standard repertoire—sit, stay, shake, fetch, roll over—it's natural to assume Rover is kind of limited to being little more than a very furry, very cuddly best friend. Well, such an assumption is woefully incorrect.

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As it turns out it, your dog is basically a bona fide superhero. From UV vision to the seer-like ability to predict earthquakes, most dogs have inherent skills that, truthfully, are more like magical powers. So, sure, you might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks. But given these 25 incredible things they can do, you won’t have to. And if you’re looking for more pups to aww over, meet these 50 Dogs So Ugly They’re Actually Cute.


They can smell cancer


It’s no secret that dogs have an amazing innate sense of smell. But did you know they can use their sniffer to detect cancer cells? That’s right: Dogs can be trained to “identify people that are affected with certain cancers, such as breast cancer and some skin cancers,” according to Samantha Devine, a veterinarian and lifestyle expert at Money Done Right.

In fact, a 2019 study published in the Experimental Biology journal revealed that dogs can use their highly evolved sense of smell to sniff out cancer in blood samples with an astonishing 97-percent accuracy rate. It’s essential to note, however, that dogs aren’t born with this skill. They have to undergo special training.


 They can sense biochemical changes in a diabetic person


Not only can they detect certain cancers, but dogs can also be trained to keep tabs on the insulin levels of their owners; they possess a practically supernatural ability to detect certain biochemical changes that occur within a person’s body. “Dogs can also smell biochemical changes that indicate a diabetic person has low blood sugar, and can be trained to identify people about to have a seizure from low blood sugar,” Devine says.


 They can sense when a woman is pregnant


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Though experts still don’t know the exact moment that a dog can sense pregnancy, the American Kennel Club (AKC) says that dogs, thanks to their acute senses, are relatively quick to pick up on major changes in your body and emotions. And, more likely than not, after they sense that you’re pregnant, they’ll become extra protective and more likely to bark at any potential threat (read: fellow strangers in the park).


 They can predict the weather


Ever notice that your pooch starts acting weird before a big thunderstorm touches down? Well, according to Li-ran Bukovza, the founder of Puppy Tip, a dog training and behavior advice website, that’s because your dog can sense storm clouds moving in before you see them.

“There are several possible explanations for this, the most likely being that dogs have a stronger sense of smell and hearing, which makes them more sensitive to changes in the atmosphere,” Bukovza says.


And they can tell when there will be an earthquake


“Dogs are able to detect when earthquakes, tornadoes, lightning storms, and other hazardous weather are about to come through the area before humans notice any changes in their surroundings,” Bukovza notes.

There’s no universally accepted theory as to why dogs can sense earthquakes, but the AKC hypothesizes that it’s due to dogs’ inherent ability to detect P-waves—or the faster, weaker seismic waves that occur before an earthquake really gets going.


They can tell time


Aside from using their noses to sniff out scents, dogs also use their cutest body part as a watch. As Alexandra Horowitz, founder of Barnard College’s Dog Cognition Lab, told NPR, dogs use their sense of smell to tell what time it is.

“Smells in a room change as the day goes on,” she said. “If we were able to visualize the movement of air through the day, what we’re really visualizing is the movement of odor through the day… The dog, I think, can smell that through the movement of that air through the room.” And for more amazing facts about your canine pal, This Is Why Dogs Smile.


They can count


According to Devine, your canine pal can not only measure lengths of time, they can also tell the difference between quantities of objects. “Studies, like a 2013 one published in the Learning and Motivation, have been done on dogs telling the difference between the length of two identical sounds, and the dogs were able to be trained to trigger each of the sounds,” says Devine. “Your pooch can also tell the difference in quantities, with them being able to be trained to pick the larger quantity of an item.”


 They can also see UV light


Though dogs can’t see the full spectrum of color that humans can, Devine points out one way in which their vision is superior: They have the ability to see UV light and radiation, meaning they can see shades beyond what the naked human eye can see. And for more insight into pups, check out This Is Why Dogs Wag Their Tails.


They can unroll a yoga mat


“Every dog can unroll a towel or yoga mat,” says Trott. Don’t believe it? “Take a mat and have it lying flat on the ground. Now put a treat at one end and flip the mat over once, as if rolling it up. Put another treat there, then roll it once more. Keep going until the whole mat is rolled up. Now your dog can unroll it. He will earn a treat for every turn the mat takes as it unrolls. This is a great party trick.”

They are as smart as a two-year-old toddler


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There’s no way your dog can best you in a game of chess (or checkers), but they can probably outwit your two-year-old. According to a 2009 study presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in Toronto, researchers discovered that dogs could understand around 165 words, including signs, signals, and gestures. Do you know any toddlers with a vocabulary that large?


They have vivid dreams


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Matt Wilson, a neuroscientist who studies memory and learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told PetMD that dogs, just like humans, dream during shuteye. However, unlike human REM, dogs probably visualize fewer psychadelic supernatural occurrences and more everyday happenstance.
“The dream experiences can be traced back to real experiences,” Wilson said. “It’s memory that’s being used to synthesize the content of the dreams.”

They know when they’re being treated unfairly


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You’ll never admit it—and we’ll never share it if you do, of course—but, if you’re a human to multiple pets, you probably have a favorite, right? Well, you might want to but the kibosh on such feelings. According to a 2017 study published in Current Biology, dogs are more than capable of sniffing out inequitable treatment. (Fascinatingly, the researchers suggest such behavior can be traced back to to “the evolution of cooperation in dogs and wolves.”)

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