6 min read


Can Dogs Live On Mars?



6 min read


Can Dogs Live On Mars?


Missions to Mars are exploring the potential for life forms to have once existed on the red planet. In 2013,  NASA’s Curiosity rover traveled over the surface of Mars, snapping images that were sent to Earth. An image that was snapped on April 1st by the microscope-like Mars Hand Lens Imager at the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm has created quite a stir!

Surprisingly, in the corner of one of the images, there is a formation that appears to be that of a dog with his paw raised, as if to shake. One observer of the image described it by saying, "He looks like a good boy" . There were also images of rock that had the same shape of dog poop. Mr. Carl Fido, a NASA representative has joked that they will take some dog food on their next journey to Mars and plan to start talks with the Humane Society to rescue any strays remaining on Mars. All humor aside, we have a stirring curiosity about the potential for life on Mars and the likelihood of colonization that could potentially include taking your best friend with you.


Signs a Dog Shows When in a New Environment

If you have a few billion dollars to spare, your move to Mars could happen sooner than later. To take your dog into space or just, perhaps move into a new home, you will still need to think about how your dog will take to the new living arrangement. 

Moving can be stressful for all parties, so your first concern will be watching for signs of stress with your dog and identifying ways to keep your dog safe and calm during the transitions. Your dog will be coping with the disruptions in the home as you are packing. There may be changes in routine and attention to the dog. The new environment will present your dog with new smells and sounds. This will be a new territory to explore and to establish a sense of security.

When dogs are stressed, they show their discomfort in a number of ways. A stressed dog may act fearful and will sometimes engage in aggressive behavior as an expression of the dog's anxiety. Your furry friend has body language as the primary form of communication. If your dog is feeling distressed, you will notice flattened ears, a tucked tail, downcast eyes and a low-bent neck. These are all signs that are telling you your dog is upset. If deeply threatened, you may see your dog cowering, hiding or clinging to you. You may even find your dog hiding.

You are likely to see changes in your dog's behavior, overall when the animal is under stress. Your dog may act out by soiling in the house, not wanting to go on walks, acting territorial or even hiding. Like humans, you may note changes in eating habits. Your dog may show a decrease or increase in appetite. 

There may be changes in sleep patterns. Your dog may appear agitated, pacing and unable to settle in. Your dog may become clingy. Fear can bring on fight or flight reactions. The distress may cause a dog to be a fear biter or to be aggressive. It is important to be a good observer of your dog and be watchful of changes in behavior that could indicate your pet is distressed.

Body Language

Some signs your dog may show if they are stressed during a move include:

  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Dropped Ears
  • Averting Eyes
  • Tail Tucking

Other Signs

Other signs that your dog is not handling a new environment well are:

  • Changes In Eating Patterns
  • Diarrhea Or Constipation
  • Changes In Activity Level
  • Clinging To You For Protection
  • Acting Territorial Or Aggressive

History of Dogs in Space


Dogs were among the first earthlings to be placed in space. In the 1950s and 60s, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States included an arms race for nuclear weapons and a race to space. The Soviets were the first to launch a capsule to orbit the earth. They conducted a series of suborbital flights with 11 dogs before finally launching the Sputnik - 2 with a canine passenger. 

The scientists needed to determine if a living creature could survive in space. They decided to study the ability of dogs to survive. The scientists chose to use stray dogs for this early testing. They reasoned that a stray dog would be more adaptive and have better survival skills than dogs raised in homes. They chose small-sized female dogs that could fit into a small space and would not need to lift a leg for elimination. 

Before sending these dogs into space travel, they engaged in some training exercises with the dog to make the animal comfortable with small spaces, to learn to eat a gel paste, and to tolerate centrifugal forces. Because of the lack of gravity, they did not know if living creatures could even digest food in space. They were concerned the food would float up and choke them. 

In 1957, the first dog into orbit was Laika. The mission was botched and, tragically, she died within hours of the launch due to overheating and panic. The capsule burst into flames on re-entry. Laika was celebrated as a national hero. Subsequent to her journey, there were two dogs who successfully orbited the earth and survived, Belka and Strelka. 

Later, Strelka had pups, one of which was given to the daughter of President Kennedy, Caroline. The descendents of Strelka are alive today. When it comes to animal testing in space, NASA is required to follow ethical standards and there must be a clear and necessary justification for animal experimentation. 

The Science of Taking Dogs to Mars


Science is searching for an understanding of what is necessary for life on earth and the limits of sustainable life. With over 1700 planets in existence beyond our solar system, scientists question the conditions that would make earthly as well as alien life possible. 

The four categories necessary for life on earth include energy, carbon, liquid water and miscellaneous factors. Currently, Mars is one of the primary worlds of interest for learning about astrobiology. From studies of Mars, science has enough data regarding the atmosphere, composition, and temperature of the planet to determine that it could be possible to colonize on the planet Mars. 

With properly built enclosures, earthlings can survive on Mars. Evidence of this possibility is demonstrated by the International Space Shuttle, which is believed to have harsher living conditions than would occur on Mars. Despite the challenges of radiation, extreme cold, poisonous gases, lack of gravity, microbes, a need for carefully planned infrastructure and the psychological impact of the lack of a horizon, with billions of dollars and the right planning - people may someday live on Mars. 

Elon Musk is promoting such a plan for travel to Mars by the year 2023. Dogs were the true first astronauts and space pioneers. With the construction of the habitable enclosures on Mars, it is possible that humans would be able to take their most loyal companion and best friend with them to the new Martian address.

Training Your Dog to Move


We all know that good dog training is often more about what we train the human to do to be a good owner than what we want the dog to do. Whether you are moving to Mars or to a new block, there are things that you need to do to work with your dog and set up the environment to support your beloved pet to have a smooth adjustment. 

Before you move, take the time to reinforce obedience commands with your dog. This will help them to be attentive to you. Spray your house with a lasting scent. Before you introduce your dog to the new home, spray that same scent so that the smell is familiar. While you are busy packing, you may need to crate your dog and give your pet needed breaks, play, and exercise. 

If you are moving locally, you may want to board your dog on moving day for safety and to keep the dog calm. When you introduce the dog to the new home, use a leash and walk around with your dog to allow them to explore the space. Keep your dog secured in a crate or room during unpacking. If you fed your dog in the kitchen in the old home, place the food and water bowls in the kitchen in the new home. The familiarity will help with the adjustment. Maintain your dog's routines during the move and subsequent weeks. Understand that the dog may need a rew weeks to get used to the new home. Be patient. Do not react to accidents. Pay attention to your dog and provide the care your dog needs to adjust to the new world of your new home.

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Safety Tips When Moving Dogs:

  1. Pay attention to where your dog is when your house is disorganized.
  2. Do not leave things around that your dog could get into that would be harmful.
  3. Use a crate to keep your dog secure during moving disruptions and travel.
  4. Teach others in the new environment how to interact with your dog.

Written by a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lover Pat Drake

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 03/23/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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