Can Dogs Look Up? 6 Ridiculous Myths About Dogs

You’d think we humans would know everything there is to know about dogs by now. After all, we’ve been tight for tens of thousands of years (that’s how long dogs have been domesticated).

But while we’ve had plenty of time to learn about dogs, we’ve also had ample opportunity to come up with our usual kooky folklore, unfounded stereotypes, and plain-old misinformation about them.

A lot of articles focus on the more widely believed dog myths, with the goal of helping people become better pet owners. In contrast, here are some of the more absurd myths about dogs that no one really believes – or at least, admits to believing.

1. Dogs can’t look up

This myth either started with, or was popularized by, the 2004 zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead. The exact quote from the movie is, “Yeah, but Big Al says dogs can’t look up!” This is offered as evidence that the character “Big Al” has some funny ideas and might not be the best source of information.

Still, this line has apparently gotten a lot of people thinking, with thousands of people searching the internet for an answer to this question every month.

So, can dogs look up? Any dog owner knows the answer is yes.

Closeup of a white dog looking up
Case closed

Now, it is true that a dog’s head does not have the same range of motion as a human’s, so Fido may have trouble looking straight up. Also, dogs tend to be more focused on the ground, and often have their noses planted in the grass rather than pointed toward the sky. Still, this definitely qualifies as a myth – one that’s stupid-easy to debunk.

2. A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth

This myth is a favorite of people who repeatedly have to explain why they allow their dogs to give them big, wet, disgusting kisses.

Closeup of a dog's mouth
You wouldn’t think a dog’s mouth would be cleaner than a human’s… and actually, it’s not

The idea sounds at least somewhat plausible because dogs use their tongues to clean, and many people believe that dog saliva can help heal wounds (a controversial claim in its own right). On the other hand, it defies common sense given all the foul things that go into the typical dog’s mouth.

The truth is that both dogs and humans have a horrifying amount of bacteria in their mouths. So if you’re one of those people who enjoy dog kisses, a better way to explain it is that it’s no worse than smooching another human.

3. Dog meat is a staple in Asia

This isn’t so much a myth as a stereotype. It’s true that dogs are eaten in some places in Asia, most notably Korea and parts of China.

An Asian woman holding a small dog up in the air
Watch out dog, she’s looking a bit peckish!

But to say that eating dog meat is normal or accepted throughout Asia is wrong. Just ask the two Vietnamese dog thieves who were recently caught stealing pets to be sold as food (well, actually, you can’t ask them because they got lynched).

In some parts of Asia, dog meat is a traditional food. In others, it’s an expensive delicacy. In still others, it’s not on the menu at all. But if you had to generalize about dog meat in Asia, you’d have to say that it’s more of a specialty food than anything typical or mainstream.

4. Dogs are racist

It’s an awkward fact that some dogs behave more aggressively around black folks or other people of color.

A German Shepherd dog barking aggressively
Some of his best friends are humans

Of course, some dogs are also freaked out by people sporting mustaches, wearing hats, or walking funny. In short, it’s hard to know what might spook a dog, or why.

It’s fair to say that some dogs are distrustful of people with certain physical traits, either because they haven’t been socialized with such people, or for some other reason, or for no reason at all that makes sense to us.

But the idea that dogs can actually be racist in the same way that people can be racist? It’s so preposterous that it’s become the basis of a tasteless internet meme.

5. A cold, wet nose means a dog is healthy

Who needs an expensive vet when you can diagnose your dog based on the squishiness of his schnoz?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. Some illnesses such as canine distemper can cause a dog’s nose to dry up, but many others have no effect. In other words, it’s an unreliable indicator at best.

Closeup of a German Shepherd's nose
Not an accurate barometer of health

The temperature and wetness of a dog’s nose does fluctuate, tempting many dog owners to try to read something into it. However, experts say these fluctuations happen for lots of different reasons, most of which have nothing to do with the dog’s health.

6. If someone owns a dog, they can’t be all bad

Whether we’re trying to decide who to go out with or who to vote for, many of us subconsciously use dog ownership as a litmus test when judging people. If a person owns a dog, they somehow seem more authentic, honest, and familiar – in short, more like us.

One word is enough to completely discredit this sort of thinking, and that word is Hitler.

Drawing of German Shepherd done by Adolf Hitler
Drawing of a German Shepherd done by failed artist Adolf Hitler

Yep, Der Fuhrer owned various dogs throughout his life and was famously devoted to his German Shepherd Blondi. The Nazis even used Blondi in propaganda, exploiting the phony connection between dog ownership and trustworthiness to make history’s biggest scumbag seem like a great guy.