The Amazing Superpowers That Dogs Possess

With their superior senses and athletic abilities, sometimes it can seem like dogs are superheroes. And even though they might not always behave, they still have several talents that can help save the world (or at least impress their humans). Here are some of the amazing superpowers that dogs possess.

A marvelous nose

Dogs’ noses play a major role in their superhero abilities. “People spend more time interpreting visual data than olfactory information,” VCA Animal Hospitals says. “Dogs are just the opposite.” In fact, the part of a dog’s brain that analyzes smells is about 40 times larger than the same spot in a human’s brain. And thanks to them having millions more scent receptors (and other anatomical differences), “it’s been estimated that dogs can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than people,” according to VCA Hospitals.

In everyday life, dogs use their marvelous noses to communicate and navigate situations. “By simply smelling, a dog can determine if a new friend is male or female, happy or aggressive, healthy or ill,” VCA Hospitals says. They have strong scent memories and will recognize people and other animals by their smell, even if they haven’t seen them for years. Their noses also can act like a compass and point their way home — or warn them when they’re on another dog’s turf. This ability is especially useful for search-and-rescue, as dogs can pick up on the scent trail of a missing person that a human would have missed.

Incredible hearing

a black shepherd mixCredit: JoopS/Getty Images

Dogs’ noses might be their most impressive superpower. But their ears are pretty extraordinary, as well. For some sounds, the sensitivity of dog and human ears is relatively the same. It’s hearing the high-pitched noises that really sets dogs apart. “The average adult human cannot hear sounds above 20,000 Hertz (Hz), although young children can hear higher,” according to the American Kennel Club. “… Dogs, on the other hand, can hear sounds as high as 47,000 to 65,000 Hz.” Plus, dog ears are much more sensitive to softer sounds than human ears, picking up some noises that our ears never would hear.

Canine ears are wired to perceive these high-pitched and soft noises because of their predator ancestors. “Wolves, dogs’ ancestors, prey on small rodents such as mice, so the ability to hear the tiny animals’ squeaks is important for survival,” the AKC says. Nowadays, this ability might help them detect someone coming to your house, even when the car is halfway down the block. And it might explain why many dogs seem to find vacuum cleaners unbearable — as they might be emitting an unpleasant sound that our human ears just can’t hear.

Super speed

Dogs may not be the fastest animal on land. That spot is reserved for the cheetah, which can reach speeds of more than 60 mph. But canines are no slowpokes either. Sleek, long-legged greyhounds are typically the dog breed associated with super speed, clocking in at roughly 45 mph, according to VetStreet. (For reference, the top human speed recorded is about 28 mph.) But plenty of other breeds — including the saluki, whippet, border collie, vizsla and husky — are known for their speed, agility and endurance.

This running prowess has benefited dogs in many ways. Hunting dogs use their sprinting ability to catch speedy prey — including hares, who can reach speeds of about 40 mph themselves. And herding dogs, such as border collies, are “designed to move quickly and make hairpin turns in order to direct large flocks over what are sometimes long distances,” VetStreet says. Or maybe these dogs simply flex their running muscles chasing down a tennis ball in a vigorous game of fetch. Regardless, it’s an ability that leaves many creatures in the dust.

A stormy sense

Dog and storm cloudsCredit: K_Thalhofer/Getty Images

Does approaching weather get your dog’s stormy senses tingling, even when the sky is still perfectly blue? There’s a good chance their superpowers are at work. Experts aren’t quite sure what it is about dogs that allows them to forecast weather. According to PetMD, it’s possible dogs can feel changes in barometric pressure and humidity. They also might be able to detect static electricity in the air, which can indicate an oncoming thunderstorm.

One study even seems to support the notion that dogs can predict seismic events, such as earthquakes and avalanches, potentially due to their incredible hearing. The study saw a significant increase in activity and anxiety in dogs the day before an earthquake hit. Interestingly, all but one of the dogs in the study who had hearing impairments did not show any changes (and the one hearing-impaired dog whose behavior did change was living with a dog who could hear). Plus, the dogs with upright ears showed more changes than those with floppy ears. And the dogs with the smallest heads — which structurally improves their high-frequency hearing — were more active and anxious than dogs with the largest heads. Still, this study was just a single event, necessitating further research on the topic.

A radar for villains

There are many cases of dogs alerting humans to serious health issues — both when they’ve been trained to do so and sometimes completely out of the blue. And it’s often a dog’s nose that can act as a radar for these medical villains. In one study, dogs were highly successful in identifying ovarian cancer patients by smelling a specific marker in the blood. And in other research, dogs learned to accurately identify breath samples of lung and breast cancer patients based on their scent.

Dogs also are known to use their superpowers to detect seizures, which can be especially helpful for those with diabetes. “In the case of hypoglycemic seizures, which are triggered by a drop in blood glucose levels in people with Type 1 diabetes, dogs may be able to smell the different chemicals a human emits during a hypoglycemic episode,” according to PetMD. But with epileptic seizures, experts don’t yet know whether there is an associated scent. Instead, they hypothesize that dogs can pick up on elevated stress and behavioral changes that even the person might not realize prior to a seizure. Nevertheless, these villains can’t fool our canine superheroes.

The character of a hero

a dog standing in a cape like a superheroCredit: PeopleImages/Getty Images

Yes, sometimes their antics might drive us crazy. But overall, dogs really do have a bit of a hero complex. Many feel an instinctive urge to protect their families and property from harm (though often that behavior requires some training and management). And they work tirelessly as service and rescue animals — with law enforcement, as therapy dogs, for people with medical conditions, etc.

But perhaps what makes dogs so super in our hearts is their ability to connect with us. “Dogs have evolved to read our feelings because they rely on a close emotional bond with humans to survive,” according to PetMD. They know how to look at our body language and facial expressions to determine our mood — and research has even shown that dogs really do care when we’re distressed and will try to comfort us. It’s all part of their superhero persona.

Main image credit: PhotoTalk/Getty Images

49 comments

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi D16 days ago

Nice article

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Naomi Dreyer
Naomi D16 days ago

DOGS are wonderful

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Marija M
Marija M23 days ago

thanks

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Gino C
Gino C23 days ago

thank you

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j W
j W25 days ago

Darn right they're super. No matter what size, they can lift you up when you're down.
You are Spot-On Ann B.!

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R26 days ago

thank you

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R26 days ago

Thank you for posting.

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Leanne K
Leanne K27 days ago

Dogs are a joy

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Louise A
Louise A27 days ago

thank you for sharing

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Lesa DiIorio
Lesa D29 days ago

thank you Mary...

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