Can Dogs Sense Natural Disasters?

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You've probably seen it in a movie or read it in a book: The natural disaster is coming, but the humans in the scene are clueless. The only savior is the lone doggo, who perks his or her ears up, sniffs the air, and sounds the warning signal that the earthquake is coming or the tornado is going to whip towards the town. It's fun to imagine that your dog has a sixth-sense for this type of thing, but is there some truth to it? Can dogs really sense a natural disaster coming? 

The short answer: Kind of. Dogs have less of a sixth-sense and more of a heightened version of all of the senses we have, which provides them with more of a warning than people get. Their acute senses (hearing, seeing, sniffing, tasting, etc.) allow them to understand that something has shifted in the air, changed in the wind, or smells different, which signals that something big is coming. 

It's a complicated process, but when it comes down to it, dogs typically are able to sense a natural disaster far before we are. Read on to learn about how dogs can do this and how you can tell if your dog is letting you know something is going on. 

Introduction of Can Dogs Sense Natural Disasters?

Signs Your Dog is Predicting a Natural Disaster

When it comes to doggos and how they'll tell you that something is up, they tend to show signs of restlessness. If your dog is sniffing or hearing something different in the air (maybe it's a tsunami, a hurricane, or a volcanic eruption), it's likely they're going to have a hard time staying calm. Your dog will be restless, antsy, anxious, and hard to settle down.

You can expect lots of barking, jumping, howling, whining, and even pacing and panting. It's also possible that your pup will dramatically increase his or her protective nature. Dogs may not fully understand what's happening when this sort of sense occurs, but they do know something different is coming. 

Due to a dog's protective and loyal nature, they're likely to increase protective contact. With that in mind, if you find that your restless pup is having a hard time leaving you alone, is trying to herd you, or is constantly trying to lick, sniff, or touch you, something might be up.

Body Language

Here are a few body language cues your pup might be giving you to signify a natural disaster:
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Guarding
  • Panting
  • Howling
  • Ears drop
  • Pacing
  • Sniffing
  • Tail up

Other Signs

There's more to watch out for, too, like:
  • Bolting or running away
  • Exorbitant sniffing or licking
  • Increasing protective contact
  • Becoming restless or aggressive
  • Attempting to herd you or protect you

The History of Dogs Sensing Natural Disasters

History of Can Dogs Sense Natural Disasters?
Throughout the decades, there have been hundreds of recorded instances of dogs being the first to know when a natural disaster is going to strike. In fact, it's long been recorded that when something is up - a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc. - the animals in that area are noted as acting differently. 

For example, according to Pet Centric, on April 27 of 2011, an Alabama woman noticed that her pup was acting incredibly peculiar. She noted that her dog, who was normally pretty calm, wouldn't be still. She whined for hours, couldn't calm down, and acted very strangely. Later, a tornado destroyed the entire community, leveling buildings, changing lives, and altering the town forever. 

While there's no scientific evidence to support that animals have a sixth-sense about it, their ability to hear and smell better certainly support that they can sense things sooner and on a better degree than we can. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it's conceded that animals are much more likely to perceive earthquakes than humans due to the ability to feel P wave seconds before S waves arrive.

The Science of Dogs Sensing Natural Disaster

Science of Can Dogs Sense Natural Disasters?
Dogs don't really have a sixth sense when it comes to sensing natural disasters, but they definitely have heightened, acute senses that can help them determine something is wrong far before people can. For starters, doggos can smell at a level that people cannot. Your dog has an olfactory cortex that is about 40x the size of yours, meaning that they're primarily led by their sense of smell. 

Additionally, dogs have over 300 million smell receptors on the surface area of their nose,  making them about 1,000 times keener to smell than we are. Their ears are nothing to scoff at, either. With 16 muscles in each ear, pups are better able to control the direction they perk their ears, almost allowing them to act as antennae to hone in on what sounds they're hearing. They can hear and smell things from much greater distances, and break up smells and sounds in a way that we can't, to determine what's going on in the world around them!

Training Your Dog to Alert You to Natural Disasters

Training of Can Dogs Sense Natural Disasters?
While it's probably incredibly difficult to train your dog to sense a natural disaster and let you know specifically what's going to happen, you can train your dog to react a certain way to help better communicate signs that something is wrong. Your dog isn't going to be able to give you a concrete, verbal idea of what's going on, but if they sense that something is happening, you can train them to best communicate their senses in a way that makes sense to you. 

For example, just as some people train their pups to ring a bell on a door when they have to go outside, try to train your pup with a similar signal if they're feeling peculiar or sensing something funny. 

In this circumstance, it can be ideal to train your dog in the same way you'd train a dog who detects seizures. First, contact an organization that specializes in specific training for dogs in order to get help. With the help of a trained professional, teach your dog to focus on certain elements and pick up on changes in the weather, wind, or other small details. You'll have to learn how your dog is alerting you to the changes to understand what they're reactions are, then you can develop and hone those reactions into signals that make more sense to you. 

How to React if your Dog is Giving You Signs of a Natural Disaster:

  • Remain calm.
  • Don't ignore your dog's bizarre behavior.
  • Try to determine what your dog is telling you - consult with your vet, friends, family, and other people with dogs to see if they're having similar reactions from their animals.
  • Stay abreast of what's going on in your area - is there inclement weather happening? It's possible your dog is trying to warn you of something.
  • Reward your dog for trying to keep you safe.
  • Keep your dog on a leash if you go anywhere, as they might try to bolt for safety.