Can Dogs Hear or Smell Spirits?

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Introduction

Have you ever gotten a tingle up your spine or felt like someone was watching you? Or have you heard weird noises in your usually quiet home? This can give many people the creeps or cause them to think their house is haunted. Humans have been obsessed with spirits and the afterlife for thousands of years, and we’re still wondering about them.

Adding to that wonder is the theory that dogs might be able to actually hear spirits or entities. Sound spooky? It might be, or it could be a comfort to someone who has recently lost a family member or friend.

Signs Your Dog Might be Sensing a Spirit

So, the question is, do you think your dog can hear spirits? If you aren’t sure, you might want to watch for a few signs. If your dog starts barking or howling, and there’s no one at the door and nothing appearing to be bothering them, they might be hearing something you can’t. 

That could be anything from a spirit to a pest that has made a home in your attic, but either way, it’s still a little spooky. Your pooch might also shake, pant, or even pace. Dogs are great studies of their environment and routine, and when something is different, they know.

Your pup might also react in an even spookier way than you could’ve imagined. Animal Planet mentioned the book “Tails of the Afterlife” by Peggy Smith in a recent article. The book details dogs and cats interacting with their owner on a daily basis. Doesn’t sound so strange until they mention the owner of the animals had passed away. The cats apparently purr and even arch their backs while the dogs sit at attention and even appear to roll over for belly rubs. 

Feeling that chill yet? If you notice your dog staring into the air, putting their ears up at nothing, or rolling over for a belly rub, they very well might be interacting with a ghost. In the end, there’s no one answer. Every dog reacts differently when he or she senses a change in their environment.

Body Language

Signs your dog might be sensing a spirit are:
  • Barking
  • Shaking
  • Panting
  • Howling
  • Pacing

Other Signs

Some more signs your dog might be interacting with a spirit include:
  • Looking at something you don't see
  • Putting their ears up
  • Rolling over for a belly rub when no one is there

History of Dogs and Spirits

As mentioned, humans have been fascinated with spirits and the afterlife for thousands of years. Knowing what happens after death is a hotly debated topic. Religion is in the middle of this debate with many, many different ideas about what actually happens to you, and even your pup after you’ve passed away. 

There are also many stories of humans seeing ghosts and even whole TV shows dedicated to catching a glimpse of spirits or hearing them speak. There is also an impressive collection of stories about dogs as well as cats supposedly sensing paranormal behaviors. Though, since animals can’t talk, it’s hard to ask them about what they’re experiencing.

Stanley Coren wrote an article for Psychology Today where he talked about a colleague's dog stopping at one exact spot on a certain trail and making a growling whimpering noise. The colleague could only get the dog to move by taking him by the collar and physically pulling him away from the spot. The colleague found out later that a student had died in that exact spot years before. No one is sure why the student died, either.

So, the colleague assumed that their dog was sensing a spirit. Coren goes on to mention however, that he thinks it has to do more with the dog sensing changes around him with his strong senses of smell and hearing.

Science Behind Dogs Sensing Spirits

Scientifically speaking, dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell. In fact, Animal Planet mentions that dogs have whooping 220 million olfactory receptors. (To give you an idea of how strong that is, they also mention that humans only have 5 million.) Dogs actually smell with their nose as well as by opening their mouth, which gives them an even better whiff. Dogs can also hear much better than humans. 

According to dogcare.dailypuppy.com, dogs hear frequencies between 67-45,000 Hz! Service Dog Central mentions that dogs can also hear sounds nearly 80 feet away. To compare, dogcare.dailypuppy.com says humans hear frequencies of only 64-23,000 Hz., and Service Dog Central says humans can only hear about 20 feet away. So, it’s pretty clear your pup has much better senses of smell and hearing than you could even dream of having.

So, is it unrealistic to say they can sense things that you can’t see or hear? Probably not. It is also interesting to note that Animal Planet also spoke with Marti Miller who is an animal psychologist. She mentioned that humans sometimes deny what they are feeling whereas dogs really don’t. So we might all be able to sense something different in our surroundings, but our dogs may be just more okay with accepting that something is different.

Training Your Pooch to Sense Spirits

Are you interesting in training your dog to sense spirits? You probably can’t. There’s very little scientific research on training a dog to do such things. However, keeping your dog healthy with regular walks, good nutrition, plenty of play time, and regular check-ups with the vet should keep their senses sharp. With sharp senses, who knows. Maybe someday they’ll pick up on an unseen force.

While we can’t really be sure if dogs can hear spirits or not, we can conclude that dogs, in general, have a very, very keen sense of hearing. So, next time your dog seems to be hearing something - don’t be too quick to rule anything out!

How to React to Your Dog Sensing a Spirit:

  • Do not try and correct them for their behavior.
  • Observe the interaction.
  • If your dog seems distressed, remove them from the situation.