If you're like many, you've heard more than one story about a friend's dog - or maybe it's your own dog - who had the innate ability to sense out someone they did not like, for what was later learned to be a justifiable reason. This has most likely led to you wondering how much validity there is in these claims about dogs' having a sixth sense that tells them who is and is not a good person, solely based on the energy they pick up from that individual.
Well, the answers can be found in the scientific research that has looked at and explored why and more importantly how it is that dogs have this ability.
Signs Your Dog Feels Negative Energy
If you have a dog, there's no doubt you've experienced them reacting to either another person or animal they did not like, whether it be during your evening walk or when a stranger comes knocking on your door. It's in these situations that your dog is likely sensing some form of what we call negative energy, which causes them to react.
The most common signs you will see when your dog is reacting include barking or howling to both notify you of the individual and as a scare tactic to let the perceived intruder know they're presence has been acknowledged. Depending on your dog, their next steps may vary. Some dogs are likely to approach the individual, to sniff them out to get a better understanding of who they are. On the contrary, other dogs may retreat from whoever it is they perceive to be negative, exhibiting warier like behaviors (such as hiding behind their owner's leg, peaking out, and barking).
It's not uncommon for your dog to show bodily signs when they are sensing something negative, such as becoming more alert and attuned to the situation by orienting their ears and body towards the individual of interest.
The Science Behind Dogs Feeling Negative Energy
Do dogs really have a sixth sense that grants them the ability to detect negative people and circumstances before we have the opportunity to? Well, the short answer to this is no, they do not have a sixth sense. The long answer requires one to understand dogs' sense abilities in general. Like humans, dogs have five senses. They have the ability to feel, see, hear, taste, and smell. The difference between humans and dogs is that dogs have more heightened senses than humans, granting them the appearance of having a sixth sense.
When it comes to detecting negative people, the senses most at work are your dog's sight and sense of smell. Scientific research exploring dogs' olfactory abilities has found the regions of the brain associated in one’s ability to smell is far larger in canines, compared proportionally to humans (40 times larger, in fact). The larger region helps explain how it is that dogs are able to detect and differentiate between smells that we don't even know are there.
In addition to a larger brain region, dogs also have 50 times more olfactory receptors in their noses versus humans. Dogs have approximately 300 million receptors and humans only have 6 million! A greater number of receptors in their noses gives dogs the ability to detect scents we can't, as well as send more messages to their brain to interpret and decipher what the smell is.
So when a dog is meeting someone new for the first time, they are able to pick up on the multitude of scents that individual is emitting, giving them much more information to interpret versus what we have to work with.
The most important biological difference that is responsible for dogs being able to detect what we call negative energy is their Vomeronasal organ, which is also called the Jacobson's organ. This organ is located in the bottom region of your pups nose and it gives them the ability to detect pheromones, which are invisible chemicals emitted by humans and other animals that send out information regarding how we are feeling as well as mating details. Humans are unable to consciously smell pheromones, whereas dogs can, and this information can tell dogs details about us including our current mood, ultimately influencing how they react and interpret us and our intentions.
This brings us back to their ability to detect negative energy. Whether or not it's actually negative energy being sniffed out and felt by out pooches is controversial. What's more probable is your dog is picking up on subtle cues in whoever they are perceiving as negative that is causing them to react in a specific manner.
On top of smelling them, your dog is also an expert at reading body language, which is why their sight plays a crucial role in how they interpret others and their potential threat level. It's possible we are not even aware of it, but we could be sending our sensitive canines signs that we are a threat without even knowing it!
Helping Your Dog Deal with Negative Energy
It's true, you can't stop your dog from sensing negative energy in others. But what you can do is help them to learn how to respond in the appropriate way. The closer the bond you have with your dog, the more likely they will feed off of your cues when it comes to sensing people's energies.
The best place to start is when a pup is very young. A well-socialized pup is less likely to spook easily when confronted with negative energies. You can also work with them to look to you at how to act in these scenarios. Do your best to be calm and assertive, not shying away from the interaction.
Be sure to nip any fear-based aggression in the bud, so as not to end up with a major behavioral problem down the road. In dogs that are rescued or older, you may want to closely watch how they respond to negative energies to see whether this will be something you will have to work on or not. If you have a dog that tends to act out in fear, the safest thing for you to do is remove your dog from the situations as quickly as possible to prevent any kind of injury or attack.
By Becky Widdifield
Published: 06/20/2018, edited: 04/06/2020