6 min read


Can Dogs Sense a Tornado?



6 min read


Can Dogs Sense a Tornado?


Dog owners are sporting a secret smile as the news keeps woofing in about their stylish canine abilities. They really are a phenomenon and have become the darlings of headlines and researchers who are fascinated with dogs. Like a flea under the collar, dogs have created a buzz that’s not likely to wane anytime soon, as they work tirelessly for humans in the police force and military. 

It comes as no surprise to find out dogs might be able to predict a storm coming, as those furry, floppy ears can hear a great distance, under and above the ground. Can they hear an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane, before it arrives? You bet they can, as they hear and smell changes in the atmosphere. Our weather dogs are storm predictors who’ll tell you when to take cover, or run for your life!


Signs a Dog Can Detect a Tornado

What’s going on with Lucy, your adorable Akita? She’s pacing up and down, scratching at the floor like something is about to happen. Lucy howls and spins around as if trying to tell you something. She's usually an easy going pup, so watching her whine and jump up at the door is sending alarm bells through your brain.

Thirty seconds later, the tornado struck leaving devastation in its path. You and Lucy took refuge in the back room and luckily came out without a scratch. However, her thunderstorm phobia caused her to pant, drool, and urinate on the floor. Many dogs get highly stressed during a storm, resulting in sweaty paws, dilated pupils and a rapid heartbeat. It can't be much fun for these poor pups who predict the storm, then freak out during it.

Some dogs have a blatant fear of weather events like Ernie, a Wire-Haired Pointer who jumps fences and run for miles. Well Blogs featured this story and how terrified dogs smashed through windows and tried to hide in small spaces, where they got stuck.

Dogs have an instinct for disaster and the senses to back up their claim. With hearing around 40 times stronger than ours, it's likely Lucy heard the tornado before her pet-mom. Tornadoes are comprised of kinetic energy, which Lucy could sense, the same way she might have if her pet-mom was about to have a seizure.

CBS News reported the story of Champ, a twister-detecting dog. Champ was an English Setter with an ability to detect a storm. One day, he went down to the basement and wouldn’t come out. His guardians knew something was up and then they saw the twister. His owners lived out of town, so couldn't hear the warning sirens. Champ heard the tornado and his guardians are eternally grateful.

Body Language

Here are some signs your dog could be predicting a tornado:<br/>

  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Pacing
  • Sniffing
  • Drooling
  • Sweaty Paws
  • Pupils Dilated
  • Spinning

Other Signs

More signs a dog can detect a tornado include:<br/>

  • Acting Crazy
  • Howling
  • Jumping Up At The Door
  • Running Away
  • Anxious Behavior

History of Dogs Predicting Storms


There are plenty of old wives tales about weather prediction, including “red sky at night, sailors delight," or "grandpa’s knee playing up when rain is on the horizon". Centuries ago, folks relied on what they could see as there were no fancy forecasters or TV. Today, we have meteorologists checking out the weather, while right under our nose the family dog's having a meltdown as they sense the storm.

Dogs may well have inherited their twister predictions from their ancestral wolf, that's known to howl in pain when a storm is approaching. The changes in air pressure apparently play havoc with sensitive ears. According to Wolf County, the daddy of dogs can hear up to six miles away in a forest area and 10 miles in open spaces. Their smelling capabilities are Herculean, with the potential to assess atmospheric changes that spell "tornado".

Domesticated pups have the blessing of the wolf, with grandiose hearing and senses that can pick up subtle weather cues. When a twister is approaching, it must be frustrating for dogs as they literally do somersaults trying to convey the message.

Some years back, a Poodle named Shadow sensed twister trouble and jumped all over her sleeping guardian, who then switched on the TV to see the warning. According to Blog.Al, he quickly rang his wife who was working in town and not long after she closed the shop door, a tenacious twister came to call. Shadow's inherent ability saved her pet-moms life.

It's a well-known fact that other animals flee from their breeding grounds when a tornado or earthquake is imminent.

Science Behind Dogs Sensing Tornadoes


Humans can hear frequencies of 20 to 20,000 hertz, while dogs can tune into higher frequencies around 45,000 Hz. We do better on a low hearing scale with dogs having their ears to the ground at 40 – 60 Hz.

The rumbling of rocks smashing together under the earth as an earthquake is evolving can be heard by dogs. This makes them highly effective search and rescue woofers, as they can hear the quiet muffled sounds of someone trapped under rubble.

The science community has taken a serious interest in how animals behave when a storm, earthquake or tornado is about to unfold. Take Part reports how a study of Golden-Winged Warbler birds, led to a storm-predicting discovery. Scientists had fitted the birds with tiny back-pack transmitters and when checking their data, were surprised to find something had happened. The birds had all deserted their habitat the day before a succession of tornadoes wreaked havoc. The birds traveled 1000 miles to safety. Researchers believe the birds could hear the low frequencies being emitted from the mammoth weather event before it arrived.

If you’re one of those people that can smell rain is coming, imagine what dogs can sense when a thunderstorm is taking shape. Dogs possess an incredible smelling machine that blows ours out of the ballpark. That’s why our precious pups are sniffing for drugs and cash at the airports plus down in the mines hoping to find diamonds and gold.

When a tornado is forming in the distance, your Greyhound, Pomeranian, or Basset hound will pick up on the vibes, breathing in the static electricity and getting a whiff of the changes in barometric pressure. A study at Tufts University found it’s not just the loud booming sound of a thunderstorm that can freak out your dog. The static electricity created can send tiny shocks through your woofer's fur, making them head for grounded spaces like a bathtub, or basement in the home. This probably makes sense to a lot of dog owners who wondered why their woofers suddenly wanted a bath before a tornado warning.

Training for Dogs Afraid of Tornadoes


Before you consider sending your weather-predicting dog to Meteorologist school for further advancement, perhaps you should just watch for the signs they are giving you.

Before all kinds of disasters, animals have issued a strong warning to humans that a tsunami, earthquake, or tornado is picking up speed.  Scientists in China have set up monitors in zoos and parks to take note of behavioral changes, preceding an earthquake. Could the same be done with dogs sensing a tornado?

If you live in an area where tornadoes are seasonal, your dog could be a great support and early detector. They may be sensitive to the endless rumble coming from far away.

Some pups are petrified of storms and suffer anxiety during and after the event. To keep your fur-babies calm, try playing calming music and keep them close. A dog that panics at the onset of a tornado could run away and get caught up in the storm.

If a titanic twister is on the way, take refuge in a windowless room, storm shelter, or cellar. It’s a good idea to have a crate set up with a pet-bed and toys. You could cover the crate with a blanket to minimize the roaring sound.

Thunder shirts are a popular calming jacket that appear to relieve stress, while a trip to the vet could see them prescribing anti-anxiety medication. There are also natural calming remedies that will help relax your dog

It may also be time to address the dog's fear with desensitization techniques. Playing tapes with storm sounds while your pup is engrossed in their food bowl can really help. Play the tape at a low level, to begin with, then increase the volume as your pup stops fearing the sound. Dogs that panic when a tornado is whirring may respond well to this training tip.

Dogs are cool creatures who know Mother Nature has a mind of her own, so if your dog starts acting bizarre, go check the weather forecast and see if they got it right!

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Safety Tips for Dogs During a Tornado:

  1. Don't let them outside.
  2. Create a safe haven in the cellar or a windowless room.
  3. Play calming music.
  4. Talk to your vet if they can't cope.
  5. Look for holistic calming remedies.
  6. Keep your pooch with you.
  7. Play games to take their mind off the storm.
  8. Comfort your dog.

Written by a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Veterinary reviewed by:

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

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