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 Why do dogs have wet noses?

Any discussion of dogs' sense of smell ultimately leads to the greatest, most imponderable question about dogs -- the question that nags at children and leaves their parents groping for an appropriate answer: why do they have wet noses?

Scientists have many answers for this. One is that evaporation or moisture from the nose helps cool the dog. Another is that added moisture in the nose makes the dog more sensitive to odors.The most boring answer is that many digs simply lick their noses with their tongues, thus wetting them.

A folk tale that goes back to biblical times gives yet another answer. When God flooded the world, the story goes, all life on the planet was inside of Noah’s ark. The two dogs Noah had chosen constantly patrolled the ark, checking on the other animals, and generally just poking around as dogs do. One day, the dogs were taking their daily stroll when they noticed a coin-sized leak, throuh which water was rushing in at a rapid rate. One dog quickly ran for help, while the other dog gallantly stuck his nose in the hole to plug it. By the time Noah and his sons arrives to repair the hole, the poor dog was in great pain and gasping for breath, but a major disaster had been averted. According to this tale, dogs’ cold, wet noses are simply a badge of honor, conferred upon them by God in memory of that heroic act.

Curb That Canine Chaser!

Dogs love the chase. Be it a vehicle, jogger, child, or another dog—if it’s moving, they’ll try to catch it. Why? Understand that all canines, from the Whippet to the wolf, are programmed to capture prey, which scamper away whenever a predator appears. This flight from danger triggers the canine’s predatory instinct to chase and capture the prey.

The Impact of Breed

The drive to chase is stronger in certain breeds. Herders, such as the Shetland Sheepdog or Border Collie, are infamous for going after anything that moves; their desire to control is just too powerful, so off they go nipping and barking, oblivious to traffic. Territorial or predatory breeds such as Rottweilers, Huskies, sight hounds, and most terriers can also exhibit an obsession to chase, particularly when another animal is the target. For them it’s almost obligatory to let the “invaders” know whose home they are passing. But even easy-going breeds like Labs or Poodles can surrender to the chase. It’s as much a function of learned behavior as it is breed.

Owner Errors

An untrained dog is more apt to chase something or someone if the mood suits. Owners with little control over their dogs tend to relinquish the leadership spot, which leads to pets that do as they please. A dog without rules doesn’t know any better and will simply take off after a car, jogger, bicycle, or animal because that’s what his instincts tell him to do. The way you interact with your dog can play a large role in persuading a dog to chase. For instance, playing chase games encourages dogs to generalize the behavior over to other individuals. Fido may have a hard time discerning the difference between chasing you in the backyard and chasing joggers down the block. Also, trips to the dog park, though great for socialization, inadvertently encourage dogs to chase other dogs. So, when a jogger or a dog trots by the home, your dog naturally goes after them.

Prevention Makes Perfect

To stop your dog from chasing, first be sure he knows his basic commands, and that he will obey them not only at home, but under varied conditions with changing levels of distraction. This will ensure he obeys you even if tempted by other stimuli, such as another dog or a group of kids playing. Next, make sure he cannot run free when you are absent. No dog, especially one without rules, should be left loose and unsupervised. Finally, leave your dog in the back yard, if possible, where he will observe less traffic and territorial challenges than from the front yard. Remember, no amount of training will help if you continue to leave your dog in a front yard where traffic or people passing by will regularly reinforce his chasing instincts. Teaching the “Come Here” command is especially useful with chasers, as it can short-circuit the dog’s reactive instinct to run after something. If you teach it properly, the fun your dog has returning to you can defeat the lure of the chase. Just be sure to master this difficult command on a long lead, before trying it off-leash.

Modifying the Bad Behavior

If your dog does chase, try this. First, purchase a “face” collar, and over a few days acclimate your dog to wearing it (follow the manufacturer’s directions). Face collars work just as horse bridles do; control the head and you control the animal. Next, clip his leash onto the ring of the face collar, and then take him out to the edge of the road, preferably one where he has done some chasing before. Allow him to face the road while you linger behind, holding the leash. Be sure to have slack in the leash. When a car or person approaches, watch your dog. The moment he shows any sign of pulling or chasing, pull the leash toward you while saying “No. Leave it!” Then, walk the dog off a bit and have him sit. The correction should be just firm enough to stop his forward motion. Never pull too hard or maintain pressure on the leash, as this could hurt the dog’s neck. And remember, this training is essential to break your dog of his bad habit, so don’t feel remorseful when he looks at you reproachfully. Walk the dog down the street a few yards, and then position yourself and the dog again in hopes that another car or person will pass. Repeat the corrections if necessary. When you notice your dog hesitating before attempting to lunge after the object, praise him mightily and give him a treat. You can even feed him his dinner in the driveway to further desensitize him to cars and people. Practice this each day until he gets the idea. Always keep your dog on leash when near the road, to prevent injury. Once your dog masters the basics, try it with a ten-foot lead. With him by the side of the road, amble off until he is at least ten feet away. Then do the exercise the same way, correcting him for attempting to chase anything, and praising when he behaves. By moving farther away, you lessen your direct influence and allow the dog to think independently. Do this until he shows little desire to chase. Be sure, though, that the longer lead does not allow him access to the road. By using these techniques and regularly practicing your dog’s obedience, you should be able to minimize the chasing habit. Remember though that the instinct to chase is strong; never put your dog in a position in which he can independently decide to chase anything. In addition, be sure to socialize him in controlled environments, to make social situations less stimulating. The more he learns to relax around people, the less likely he’ll be to chase them.

Poisons, Poisons, Everywhere!


By Deb M. Eldredge, DVM

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center recently released a list of the ten most common poisons that dogs ingest. What is immediately striking about the list is how ordinary each of the poisons is—most of us have these compounds in our homes or garages. The list is a reminder that it is important to keep medications and potentially toxic items locked up or stored safely away from our pets.

Here is a list of the toxins that you need to keep out of your pet’s reach:


Ibuprofen is a widely used human non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. In dogs, this medication can cause stomach and kidney problems and even impact the nervous system causing symptoms such as depression and seizures. If you drop a pill, be very careful to find it before your dog does. Labs and Beagles are notorious for snarfing up dropped drugs. If this happens in your household, be sure to make your dog vomit, if you can, as soon as you suspect he ate any pills, and then call your veterinarian. Never give your dog ibuprofen for pain or discomfort.


Chocolate has two potent substances – theobromine and caffeine. The amount of these compounds present in chocolate varies greatly depending upon the type and brand of chocolate. The dog who indulges in chocolate with large amounts of theobromine or caffeine may show increased heart rate and excitability leading to possible seizures. If you can make your dog vomit close to the time of ingestion, do so. Then head to your veterinarian. It may take up to three days for the theobromine effects to wear off, and this can be dangerous for your dog’s heart.

Ant and Roach Baits

Ant and roach baits may be found in motels when you travel, as well as in areas around your home. Luckily the toxic substances are generally present in small amounts, but they are often mixed in with tasty treats like peanut butter that your dog may find irresistible. If your dog ingests the bait, he is more likely to have a problem with the parts of the container he eats than with the ingredients, but take him into your veterinarian just the same. Better to be safe than sorry.


People often rely on rodenticides to remove mice and rats when they don’t have a good cat or a skilled terrier to do the dirty work. Most of these products contain anticoagulants that stimulate fatal bleeding in rodents. They can also stimulate bleeding in dogs that eat the treated blocks. Paralysis, seizures, and kidney failure are all possible effects of these potent drugs. Induce vomiting if you can, but then head directly to your veterinarian. Your dog may need fluids, blood tests to follow the progression of treatment, vitamin K injections, and possibly even a blood transfusion. Some versions of rodenticides have cholecalciferol that can cause elevated blood calcium and phosphorus levels, which lead to renal failure. This may require a much different course of action for your pet. If possible, bring the container for the poison into your vet’s office, so they can determine exactly what your dog is up against. 


Acetaminophen is an extremely common pain medication for people. Unfortunately, this drug can cause liver failure, swelling of the face and paws, a problem with oxygen transport in the blood, and even a decrease in tear production for dogs. N-acetylcysteine is an antidote to the problem, but it needs to be repeated until all signs of poisoning are cleared. Supportive treatment for the liver and dry eyes is recommended. If your dog ingests acetaminophen, he will probably need to be hospitalized.

Pseudoephedrine Containing Cold Medications

Numerous over the counter cold medications contain pseudoephedrine. In dogs, this drug causes panting, excitement, increased temperature, and increased heart rate. Sedation and even general anesthesia may be required to settle your dog down, while fluid therapy will help to flush this substance from your dog’s system.

Thyroid Hormones

Thyroid hormones are used to treat both people and dogs with low thyroid levels. Luckily, most dogs handle an overdose of these medications quite well. An increased heart rate and a hyperactive dog that is bouncing off the walls are common signs that your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t.


Most bleach products used at home are fairly dilute. Commercial bleaches, however, can be very strong and cause irritation to your dog’s eyes or skin. A quick bath is ideal if bleach is on your dog’s skin or coat. If your dog inhales bleach, especially any bleach mixed with ammonia products, she could develop a deadly chemical pneumonitis. This can affect you too, so don’t breathe deeply yourself. Get your dog out into fresh air as quickly as possible and then to your veterinarian.

Fertilizer, Including Plant “Foods”

Fertilizer can be very attractive to dogs. Additives such as bone meal are enticing. While the basic fertilizer formulas of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are generally not highly toxic, additives such as fungicides can be. Most dogs that ingest fertilizer show gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and/or diarrhea, but they do recover on their own. In some cases, however, they need fluids for hydration and medications to settle and soothe the stomach and intestines. Consult with your veterinarian for the best course of treatment when your dog ingests fertilizer.

Hydrocarbons Including Paints, Polishes, and Fuel Oils

Rounding out the list is hydrocarbons. These products can be found in paints, polishes, and fuel oils—including kerosene, acetone, and gasoline. Dogs that swallow these products tend to have gastrointestinal upsets. The skin can also be irritated from contact. If your dog simply breathes in fumes or aspirates these products, he may suffer from depression or hyperexcitability along with secondary pneumonia and liver or kidney damage. Dogs that have breathed or ingested hydrocarbons should not be made to vomit as the risk of aspiration is too high. Instead, they need symptomatic treatment and supportive care such as fluids to flush their systems, baths to remove any residue, and saline flushing of the eyes if any residue splashed into them.

Take Care

All of the products on the ASPCA list can be found in most of our households. To keep your pet safe, be proactive. Store goods safely in locked cupboards, use secure, non-breakable containers, and always keep careful track of all medications in the household. Taking some basic precautions can go a long way toward avoiding a catastrophe for your dog.

If you have questions about the safety of a substance or you suspect your pet may have ingested something he shouldn’t have, don’t wait--call the National Animal Poison Control Center at: 888-426-4435.