By Alexandra Anastasio
While there are people who believe in the paranormal, have you ever wondered whether your dog is able to sense the spirits? After all, canines have extraordinary senses that are much sharper than a human’s. And wouldn’t it be comforting to know that your dog is able to detect a loved one who has passed on?
As much as we’d like to believe there is some truth to the idea that dogs can sense the paranormal, the scientific answer is that we just don’t know. Despite the fact that there is no scientific proof that dogs can see ghosts, so much of animal behavior is uncertain that the possibilities of a dog sensing something a human can’t is not out of the question. “The most interesting part of the science of dog behavior and understanding is that we simply don’t know so much,” says Russell Hartstein, a certified dog behavior consultant and dog trainer in Los Angeles.
Your Own Perceptions Play a Part
Much of a dog’s behavior can be a mystery to an owner, but there are countless examples that leave us wondering if the unimaginable is actually conceivable. “When someone is inclined to believe in the paranormal, some dogs may exhibit behaviors that make it look like they are perhaps sensing an apparition is nearby,” says Dr. Mary Burch, director of the AKC Family Dog Program and a certified animal behaviorist. “This may be the dog that stops and stands still at a given point in the house, and the owner later finds out someone died there.”
If a dog is standing in a corner, barking at nothing visible, could it be that he senses something out of the ordinary? Or perhaps he stays close to an object that is associated with a deceased family member, whether it be a favorite chair or side of the bed, as if that person is still present.
Dr. Burch points out that when a dog barks at what appears to be nothing, an owner sometimes thinks it’s because he’s seeing a ghost or picking up on something she can’t. “While clairvoyance generally falls outside of what we can prove in terms of science, we do understand and have research on a dog’s basic five senses,” she says.
The Sixth Sense
In addition to the five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing), dogs also possess a sixth sense — that “gut” feeling we get when something doesn’t feel right. The difference though is that dogs are more open to trusting what they feel and acting on those feelings accordingly, while most people’s minds analyze what’s going on and deny the possibility that auroras or spirits exist. “Dogs are remarkable creatures, with senses that far exceed a human’s,” explains Dr. Burch.
When a dog runs and sits by the door waiting for his owner, Dr. Burch explains this behavior could be a habit simply learned through repetition. But if the owner comes home much earlier than usual, and the dog still sits by the door within minutes of his arrival, that unexplained behavior could appear to be his sixth sense.
Dogs also have the ability to detect impending disasters before they happen, thanks to their powerful sense of smell. “Barometric pressure and all natural phenomena have odors associated with them,” says Hartstein. “They are beyond the capacity of our noses to recognize, but dogs can sense these changes immediately.”
Can Dogs See Things We Can’t?
The level of a dog’s hearing also surpasses a human’s, and dogs possess the ability to hear higher-pitched noises from a much greater distance. “Dogs’ auditory perception is another area where they perceive the world around them in a vastly different way from human beings,” points out Hartstein. “These differences may be connected to their ability to pick up on different and undetectable phenomenons that we do not.”
A dog’s field of vision is much wider than ours; they can see objects at a greater distance, and their ability to see in twilight, dusk, and dawn is far superior to ours, making it possible to pick up certain movements that are undetectable to the human eye. “It could be absolutely accurate that the dog is picking up on something we may not be able to see. But what they are perceiving may not be Casper the Friendly Ghost,” explains Dr. Burch.
Dogs are fascinating creatures, and there is still much uncertainty when it comes to the abilities of man’s best friend. “Their senses are highly attuned, and it is obvious they are perceiving the world in a vastly different way than we do,” says Hartstein. Whether their extraordinary senses are able to pick up on unknown forms, energies, or the paranormal continues to remain a mystery.