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Do Dogs See The Supernatural?

Do Dogs See The Supernatural?

Whether folklore or fact, many of us would like to believe that our dogs can detect unexplained or invisible presences, guided by a canine sixth sense. It’s exciting, and comforting, to think a favorite dog is sensitive to a departed relative or friend.

But hard evidence of dogs’ extrasensory perception is elusive and anecdotal. The 2009 book “Tails of the Afterlife,” by Peggy Schmidt, chronicles multiple instances of unexplainable actions by dogs who apparently interact with something, or someone, unseen. For instance, she writes about a woman named Del Johnsen who left seven dogs and six cats when she passed away. Numerous witnesses believe she still visits her pets daily, and report seeing the animals suddenly gather in one spot, cats arching their backs and purring, dogs flopping over for a belly rub, wriggling in enjoyment, all of them sitting at attention and staring into the air before resuming their own activities. And Schmidt says her own Jack Russell terrier Pixie has repeatedly reacted to ghosts present in local buildings rumored to be haunted.

But your pet’s so-called sixth sense may simply be the result of his keen hearing, exceptional nose, and a dog’s eye view on the world that allows him to sense small movements that escape our attention. A dog’s senses are keener, and different, than ours: His eyes detect more delicate movements; his sense of smell is 1,000 to 10,000 times more sensitive than a human’s. He can hear much higher frequencies, and at four times the distance of a human with normal hearing.

Wild and domestic animals, including dogs, seemed to sense the impending Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, displaying their distress with behavior changes and vocal warnings, and either ran for cover or refused to go outside. Some experts believe they could sense vibrational changes on land from impending the earthquakes before humans could.

Dogs’ heightened sense of smell is credited with their ability to detect some cancers in humans. Service dogs who aid seizure-prone people are alert to subtle shifts in body smells and dilated pupils, signs that enable the dogs to warn their owners of a looming attack.

As for a sixth sense connecting to the supernatural or paranormal, pet psychologist Marti Miller believes that both dogs and their owners possess one. “But humans judge or deny what they are feeling,” says Miller, who is based in Austin, Texas. “Dogs don’t judge what is going on in the environment. While our own minds start to analyze what is happening, dogs don’t do that. They feel the barometric pressure change, and may react by shaking, panting, salivating and feeling anxious, or they may not react at all.”

Miller says dogs’ varying reactions to a shift in the atmosphere or unrecognized sound or movement can stem from early traumas, such as being caught in a rainstorm, hurricane or tornado, or from “a cellular memory that they have brought with them to this lifetime.” For dogs, “sensing the supernatural is natural because they don’t judge it. People could see auras or spirits, but they either don’t believe they exist, or think that if they do exist, we could not see them.” Animal Planet’s own series “The Haunted” includes episodes with instances of family dogs reacting to the apparent presence of spirits, reactions that have no easy explanation for the out-of-the-ordinary behavior.

Scientific studies on dogs’ senses offer debatable evidence of dogs’ psychic and sensory perceptions. In his 1999 book, “Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals: An Investigation,” biologist and author Rupert Sheldrake presents a five-year exploration into canine behaviors. His work is based on the experiences of thousands of dogs and owners whose arrival home at unexpected times did not surprise their pets, who reacted with anticipation. Sheldrake concludes that “there is a strong connection between humans and animals that lies beyond present-day scientific understanding.”

When watching your own dog during activities in your household, or when you take him visiting, you may see him fasten his attention on something you can’t see or hear. You may shrug it off as anxiety or reaction to an unfamiliar smell. Or just maybe, you suspect your own pooch is communing with the unseen.

Because dogs can’t talk to offer their own explanations, there’s no way to know what exactly is going on. “The simple answer is, we don’t know that dogs see ghosts or spirits,” Miller said. But she adds, “If you observe a dog standing in the corner, barking at nothing visible, then there’s a pretty good chance that he’s barking at an entity, spirit, or energy that doesn’t belong there.”

A distant noise, an unseen spirit or fresh cut of meat? You decide.

Related
10 Interesting Mythical Animals
5 Superstitions and Why They Exist
10 Amazing Pet Feats (Slideshow)

Read more: Dogs, Pets

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146 comments

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7:38PM PDT on Oct 6, 2013

Dogs definately have a keen 6th sense!

7:31PM PDT on Oct 6, 2013

Absolutely they do!

7:23PM PDT on Oct 6, 2013

Always trust your dogs instinct. My sisters dog would stare into space in the room and tremble with fear. Finally they decided to take pictures of open space in the room. What they saw in the photos was many orbs. They couldn't see them but their dog could. They took photos in other rooms as well and they were present there also.
If your dog seems to see something you can't, just tell him/her "it's okay" to calm them down.

9:05AM PDT on Sep 1, 2013

Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it's not there. I believe animals are much more in tune with the universe and will see and sense things humans have mostly lost the ability to see and sense.

12:04PM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

I'm sure they can since they have a 6th sense about things like that among many other things since they're such amazing creatures.
Thanks.

11:40AM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

Animals have sharper senses & more sense than most people.

5:21AM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

3:36AM PDT on Aug 17, 2013

I lived in a (very) haunted house, and my dog would suddenly wake up from sleep, run into the corridor and sitting there staring at a random spot for ages...

3:12PM PDT on Aug 11, 2013

I guess I wrote too much as they cut off the end of my story. But, my lesson: trust your dog and know that you needn't take them for attack dog or guard dog training and you don't have to keep them chained up or not socialize them. Somehow, they just seem to know. Sorry I talked/wrote so much!

3:04PM PDT on Aug 11, 2013

I've always felt that dogs have senses that we can't understand. I once had a dog that saved my life. I was in a very threatening situation but I did not show ANY fear. I sat there trying to think of what to do. I NEVER even considered that my dog would act as he had always been the sweetest, most friendly and loving dog and had never shown any hostility. So I sat, scared sh**less just trying to think when, suddenly, he (my dog, Simon) came up behind the man that was seriously threatening me and rested his head on the guy's shoulder with his mouth near the guy's throat, and a growl came from his soul (unlike I've ever heard from him) with teeth flashing. I forget to be afraid because I was in the state of shock because of what I was seeing! Now, with the tables turned, the guy said, rather quietly, "get the f**k out and take your f**king dog with you." After a second or two, I jumped up and called Simon but Simon stayed a few more seconds until I was at the door and then we both ran out. My point is how did Simon know the dire nature of the situation? I hadn't said a word so it wasn't from my voice, there was no yelling or anything from the guy and there hadn't been an attack or threatening moves (yet). How did he know that my fear wasn't from being afraid of slipping on ice or my car not starting or being startled by a friend. He just sensed my fear and, somehow knew that it was bad and he also knew that the man was the source. How did he know how to stop him?

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