Do dogs have a sixth sense?
29th January, 2021
Any dog owner knows there is far more going on behind those adorable puppy dog eyes than just thinking about where the next biscuit is coming from! Dogs can sense a whole range of things that mere humans can’t. Whether it be our mood, an approaching storm, or just when we’re coming home, it’s obvious our pampered pooches are aware of more than we think.
This has led many people to believe that dogs possess a sort of sixth sense. But is this really possible? The short answer is yes. Intrigued? Then read on to find out some of the remarkable things our pups can do with these ‘super powers’!
However, despite their seemingly supernatural abilities even dogs can’t predict the future. That’s why dog lovers always make sure they’ve got the best insurance for dogs in place to take care of the truly unexpected.
How dogs’ senses compare to ours
If you think dogs are superior to humans in many ways then you’re not mistaken. No wonder police and rescue services around the world use dogs to sniff out drugs, bombs and even earthquake survivors!
While we rely on our sense of sight to find our way, dogs use their incredible sense of smell. Did you know that dogs have over 220 million scent receptors in their noses compared to our 5 million? Or that while our brains are 10 times larger the part that is devoted to analysing smells is 40 times smaller? Indeed, champion sniffers such as Bloodhounds have 300 million scent receptors!
This massive sensory advantage also extends to their hearing, with dogs being able to hear noises from four times the distance of a person. Dogs can also hear noises at a far higher frequency than us – detecting noises up to 45,000 Hertz while we struggle with anything above 23,000 Hertz.
They also have an amazing ability to detect the direction of sounds. This is helped by the fact they have as many as 18 muscles in their ears, giving them fantastic flexibility.
While our colour perception, near and far sight is in many ways superior, dogs see much better in dim light. As natural-born hunters, canines also see moving objects more clearly than us. In addition, because dogs have eyes on the sides of their head, they have a remarkable field of vision. A dog’s visual field is around 240 degrees compared to our pitiful 180 degrees!
These amazing senses, however, can sometimes distract dogs from our commands when out walking. Having dog insurance in place is an important way to protect them from any injuries or illnesses picked up when out and about.
Ever since we domesticated wolves all those thousands of years ago, we’ve been aware of their startling abilities. Here’s a countdown of some of the amazing things they can predict and the scientific explanations behind them!
1. They can sense when a storm is on the way
We’ve developed some pretty clever ways to know when a storm is coming. But they’re nothing compared to our faithful friend. Owing to their sensitive nose they can literally smell the rain long before it arrives and even the ozone produced by lightning. Dogs are also far more sensitive to barometric pressure. Indeed they can detect the change in weather while you’re still getting your boots on! So, take note next time they don’t seem keen on walkies, they might know more than you think.
2. They can detect earthquakes
Since ancient times people have believed that animals can predict earthquakes. Way back in 373BC the Greek historian Thucydides recorded descriptions of rats, dogs, snakes and weasels deserting the city of Helice just days before a catastrophic earthquake. This is incredible when you realise that even with modern technology no scientist has ever been able to reliably predict an earthquake!
While there is no definitive explanation for this ability, a tantalising study in Psychology Today could have an answer. It suggests that it’s down to their ability to hear the geological movements underground before the quake.
3. They know when you’re going to have a baby
Dogs have also been shown to have the ability to detect when a pregnant human is due to go into labour. We believe this is due to a subtle combination of changes in the human’s scent and behaviour.
4. They can alert you to a seizure before it happens
Incredibly, dogs have been trained to act as support dogs for people who experience seizures. Seizure alert dogs provide a reliable warning up to 50 minutes prior to an oncoming seizure. This gives owners time to find a safe and private place before the seizure. Dogs can also be trained to provide help and protection when a seizure happens.
According to National Geographic it’s still a mystery how dogs detect an approaching seizure. But some researchers think it’s down to their remarkable noses and their ability to detect subtle behavioural changes.
5. They can sniff out diseases
As recently reported by the BBC, dogs even have the power to sniff out illnesses such as Coronavirus. Trials are currently going ahead at Durham University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to see if this is so.
The charity Medical Detection Dogs has already trained dogs to spot the scent of malaria, cancer, Parkinson's and bacterial infections and hopes to do the same with Coronavirus. These developments are based on the charity’s research in 2014 indicating that dogs are able to detect tiny traces (around one part per trillion – the equivalent of one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools) of the smell created by different diseases.
If the trial is successful, the dogs could be used as a fast, effective and non-invasive way to screen anyone, including those without symptoms.
Health problems are hard enough without the financial worry of what would happen if your cute companion got ill, too. Dog insurance from Purely Pets takes away that concern so you can focus on getting better.
6. They are a great judge of character
Many of us have learnt to trust our four-legged friend’s instincts on other people. If they don’t like a certain person, there’s often a reason why! So, why are they so good at doing this? Not only can they detect subtle hormonal changes in people but they also spend a lot of time watching our behaviours, attitudes and moods. Even as puppies they tune into the vast amount of non-verbal communication that we might not even be aware of. Indeed scientists say dogs are even better than chimpanzees at reading the body language of humans.
7. They know when you’re coming home
Is your dog always by the door when you get home? Do you wonder if they’ve been there all day? Don’t worry, they probably haven’t. And despite their remarkable abilities they still don’t know how to read a clock!
North Carolina State University explains that your dog knows to come to the door even before you’re in your driveway because they can recognise the specific sounds your car engine makes. And if you don’t drive, they will identify other triggers like hearing the bus that drives by at the same time of day as you return.
8. They know if you’ve had a good day or a bad day
Because they spend so much time with us, they know our moods, expressions, and habits even better than we do. This has got to the point where they can notice the difference between the facial expressions of their owners. For example, if you come home from work after a good day and greet your dog with a smile and a happy tone, your dog will interpret this behaviour as something good. So when you’re upset your frown, slumped shoulders, tone and even scent will indicate something bad. Your dog picks up on these signals and reacts accordingly.
9. They (might) see ghosts
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. However, it is certainly possible that dogs are picking up on something we have no way of perceiving.
For example, researchers in Germany have found evidence that domestic dogs can perceive the Earth’s magnetic fields in a similar way to some birds. However, how they are doing this and why the ability is useful to them are still unanswered questions.
Often our dog’s strange behaviour might be down to these super sensory perceptions. However, if the behaviour continues then it would be worth seeing a veterinary professional. Dog insurance gives you the comfort to know that if you’re worried there’s always help close at hand.
Amazing dog facts to wow your friends
- Dog’s noses are wet for a reason. A special mucus helps them absorb scent chemicals! They lick their noses to taste them, helping them identify the scent.
- Dogs are as smart as a two-year old child. The smartest dogs can understand roughly 250 words and gestures.
- Stroking a dog and gazing into their eyes releases oxytocin (the so-called ‘love hormone’) in both you and them.
- Dogs can shake 70% of the water out of their fur in just four seconds, creating more G-force than Formula 1 drivers experience on sharp bends.
- Dachshunds were originally bred to fight badgers.
- The Chow Chow and the Shar-Pei are the only dog breeds with completely black tongues. And we don’t yet know the cause.
- Around 22% of Dalmatians are deaf in one ear and 8% are deaf in both. This is due to the genes that provide their piebald (spotted colour on white) coat. Blue eyes are also a common indicator of deafness – although we don’t know why.
- The Saluki is the world’s oldest recorded breed of domesticated dog. They appear in ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to 2100 BC.
- In 2012, an international team of scientists identified the world’s first known domesticated dog as living 31,700 years ago in Belgium. This prehistoric dog resembled a large Siberian Husky with remarkable strength and biting ability.
- Another ancient breed of dog, the Basenji, doesn’t bark. Instead they are known to make a unique yodel-like sound due to their unusually shaped larynx..
- Star Wars fans will be interested to learn that in a copyright infringement case in 1990 George Lucas claimed he modelled the Ewoks after his family dog!
- Dogs have three eyelids. The third lid is responsible for keeping the eye protected and lubricated.
- The African Hunting Dog is the most successful land predator in the world according to the Guiness Book of World Records. They’re successful in 50-70% of their hunts, consistently the highest figure in the mammalian world.
- Researchers from Germany and the Czech republic have found that dogs defecate and urinate in alignment with the Earth’s magnetic field.
- There are approximately 600 million dogs in the world. Unfortunately it’s estimated that nearly 400 million of them are strays.
Dog insurance from Purely Pets
Whatever the mysteries of your pup’s strange behaviours you’ll have many hours of fun living and playing together. However, wherever life takes you both, sometimes the unexpected can happen.
Whether a minor injury or even a serious illness, treatment for your canine friend can soon get costly. Early treatment is the only way to stop conditions from developing into something more serious. Having the right dog insurance cover in place is a great way to protect yourself from these financial worries.
The caring team of insurance specialists at Purely Pets has designed 15 levels of lifetime cover including cover for vets’ fees ranging from £1,000 to £15,000.
As well as our award-winning policies and low excess from as little as £60, you also have 24-hour access to an online policy management portal so you can manage your cover at a time that suits you.
In addition, policyholders are able to call our 24-hour Vet Helpline where our team of veterinary professionals are always on hand to answer your dog-related queries.
Get a quote today to insure your dog.
Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.