Can Dogs Hear Earthquakes?

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Introduction

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of stories out there of woofers reacting weirdly right before an earthquake or other natural disaster hits. Some people report excessive barking; others say their dog randomly ran around in circles in a way that they normally didn't. Some doggos run for cover well before their owners know anything is amiss while other owners just say that their dog acted super weird before the ground started shaking. 

Regardless, there's been a history of owners reporting that their furry floofs basically predicted an earthquake before it happened. But can they really do that? Well, it turns out that scientists don't really know. There has never been a conclusive study that shows one way or the other whether our pets can feel or predict through sight, smell, hearing, or any other sense. 

But some research shows, as do the countless stories out there, that our pets may actually have an ability to sense trouble like this before it's coming, so it's a good idea to learn the signs and behaviors your pooch may exhibit before an earthquake hits your home!

Signs Your Dog May Be Reacting to an Earthquake

Many owners that are convinced that their dog knew an earthquake was about to hit report that their dog exhibited strange behavior in the hours and minutes before it actually happened. Generally, dogs that may be feeling earthquakes before you do can just freak out. 

This can include aimlessly running around a room and panicking, barking or crying for no apparent reason, or other anxious behavior. They may growl, hide, or cower in a place that is safe and comfortable to them, or they may become super clingy and refuse to leave your side. It should be relatively easy to tell if your dog is feeling some sort of discomfort.

They may also exhibit signs of fear. Submissive and fearful behavior traits in dogs can include, again, whimpering, crying, and general distress. A fearful dog may roll over on their belly or tuck their tails between their legs. Like tucking their tail, a dog that is afraid will often press their ears flat to their head as well. Their eyes will usually be relatively wide, and they may even shake or quiver. Many dogs will also "raise their hackles", meaning that the hair along their backs will raise. 

Lastly, dogs that are afraid, especially if they don't know what to direct their fear at, may also lash out in a way that they normally would not. This type of aggressive behavior may include lips pulled back so that you can see their teeth, as well as a wrinkled nose. 

The fact there is not one, common behavioral trait across all breeds is partially what makes the question of whether dogs can sense earthquakes difficult. Because all dogs, and animals in general, act differently in the face of an earthquake, there's no way to truly tell that they're particularly reacting to a natural disaster. 

It's important, in any case, to note your dog's normal behavior patterns so you'll notice when they're acting differently. It's also especially important to notice when these signs seem to be happening with no immediate or known cause. If your dog is flipping out and you can't pinpoint a reason as to why, it may be that they're actually feeling and hearing the beginning tremors of an earthquake that you are not yet aware of. 

Body Language

Some cues your dog could be giving you if an earthquake is headed your way include:
  • Shaking
  • Pacing
  • Sweaty paws
  • Back hair on edge
  • Lips pushed forward
  • Tail tucking
  • Ears back
  • Pupils dilated

Other Signs

Some other signs that your dog is sensing an earthquake are:
  • Submissive or fearful behavior
  • Rolling over on their stomach
  • Crying or whimpering
  • Cowering
  • Running to hide in a safe space
  • Aggressive behavior or snapping
  • Barking at nothing
  • Acting clingy or needy

The History Behind Dogs and Earthquakes

The idea that dogs can feel earthquakes before we can and before they actually happen actually dates all the way back to Ancient Greece. In fact, "there have long been reports of animals behaving strangely before large earthquakes, including an account of snakes, weasels, and rats moving to safety several days prior to an earthquake in Greece in 373 BCE." 

Since then, there have been various reports the world over of pets acting strangely in the days and hours before an earthquake hits. This occurrence was reported before a magnitude 9 earthquake in 2011, in China before an earthquake in 2008 and 1975, and more. 

The historical proof behind there being at least some sort of connection is long, so there is definitely a chance that the little pooch you keep at home may be a better predictor of earthquakes than you are!

The Science Behind Dogs and Earthquakes

Because there is no baseline behavior pattern on which scientists can form a study, it is difficult to determine whether or not dogs can predict earthquakes for sure. However, if they can, much of their ability to do so would be attributed to their hearing abilities. 

Dogs have significantly better hearing than humans do. As a result, "very few humans notice the smaller P wave that travels the fastest from the earthquake source and arrives before the larger S wave. But many animals with more keen senses are able to feel [and hear] the P wave seconds before the S wave arrives." 

Because they have a better sense of hearing, they may be able to hear the ground deformation and cracks that occur before the large quake takes place. So, while there's no strict consensus among scientists regarding whether dogs can absolutely predict earthquakes or other natural disasters before they happen, there is a high chance that it is possible. 

Training Your Dog to Sense Earthquakes

While there's no way to train your dog to sense an earthquake before it occurs, there definitely are ways to train your dog to react appropriately to unpredictable situations. 

Make sure to train your dog to come when called, so that if you get separated during an actual earthquake, they'll return to you once it's safe to come out of hiding. Similarly, you should train yourself to know your dog's behaviors. Make sure you know what your dog does when they're freaked out - where they go to hide and what behaviors they exhibit.

That way, you won't be shocked when your dog starts to show fear, and you'll be able to find them if you become separated during the actual event.

How to React if Your Dog Exhibits Any of These Behaviors:

  • Don't panic! For one thing, these types of behaviors are typical when dogs are afraid or uncomfortable in general and don't necessarily mean an earthquake is about to hit. Sometimes, dogs just bark or act strangely. Take notice if it really does seem to be at nothing you can see or hear.
  • Don't grab your pet! If there is an actual earthquake, you may want to grab your most prized protection to protect them - your dog! Don't! Dogs and other pets have a natural instinct to protect themselves during natural disasters after years of evolution. So get safe yourself - your dog probably already is!
  • Take preventative measures: if an earthquake occurs, there's a chance you and your dog may get separated. If that happens, you're going to want them to be returned to you ASAP! The best way to ensure this is a chip implant and a collar/tag, so make sure your dog is always wearing one!
  • Stay calm: if you stay calm, your doggo is more likely to stay calm, since they look to you for guidance. The calmer you stay, the more likely it is that your dog will stick with you, so try not to freak out when the ground starts shaking!

We Want to Hear About Your Dog Sensing an Earthquake!