There is an enduring belief that dogs are tuned into the spirit world and can sense the presence of ghosts and unseen forces. It’s true that dogs have been revered throughout history: the ancient Egyptians and Chinese believed dogs had a direct link to gods, goddesses and the afterlife. Dogs appear regularly in old myths and fairytales as spooky, uncanny creatures … and a belief in the dog’s supernatural powers continues to this day.
A recent American survey of 1,000 dog owners found that almost half believe their dog has ‘a sixth sense’ and could foretell a bad situation before it happened, and warn them. It is known that dogs can sense tsunamis and tornadoes in advance and there are incredible stories of dogs finding their way home after getting lost thousands of kilometres away.
But can dogs really sense ghosts and spirits and is there any scientific proof of their supernatural abilities? These questions are more important than ever during the month of Hallowe’en, when all things spooky come to light! In fact there may be quite a simple explanation. According to experts, a dog’s so-called ‘sixth sense’ could be attributed to its keen senses of sight, smell and hearing. As University of British Columbia psychology professor Stanley Coren notes, dogs can sense things through normal sensory channels that the average human is not aware of.
Let’s take a look at these remarkable canine senses:
Sight: Dogs have a wider range of vision, their eyes detect more delicate movements and they see much better in low light than humans. They also see things humans can’t; this is because dogs see some of the ultraviolet light spectrum that is invisible to humans. It is speculated, by ghost hunters (and believers), that ghosts may only be visible in infrared or ultraviolet light, some of which dogs can see. So when your dog seems to be staring at nothing, he or she could simply be seeing something that is invisible to you … or a ghost.
Hearing: Dogs hear sounds at a much higher pitch than humans and at much further distances. It is believed that dogs hear sounds as high as 60,000 Hz, three times higher than a human’s range of hearing. And their ‘distance hearing’ is four times as powerful as humans. This could explain how a dog senses its owner is coming home long before anyone walks through the door, even when the arrival is unexpected.
Smell: A dog’s sense of smell is believed to be 10,000 times stronger than a human’s. Dogs possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to our six million. Dogs can be trained to smell cancer, low insulin levels, drugs, bombs and truffles, and who know what else with a nose that powerful. One dog scientist likened their smelling ability to being able to catch a whiff of one rotten apple in two million barrels. Talk about extrasensory perception!
Okay so a dog’s keen senses of hearing, smell and sight explain a lot when it comes to their ongoing supernatural status, but there are still unanswered questions. Do dogs sense energy? Why do dogs often take an instant dislike or like to people they have just met? Why will they suddenly refuse to go somewhere such as a room in a house … even if bribed?
American pet psychologist Marti Miller believes that both dogs and people possess a ‘sixth sense’ but while people judge or deny what they are feeling, dogs are incapable of judgement. They accept what is going on in their environment without questioning it, she says. However, the verdict is still out. “We don’t know that dogs see ghosts or spirits,” says Miller.
What do you think? Did your dog ever act in a way that made you wonder if it have that elusive ‘sixth sense?’
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