5 min read


Can Dogs Sense When Something is Wrong?



5 min read


Can Dogs Sense When Something is Wrong?


You may not realize it, but a dog is your own personal alarm bell. They can alert you to intruders, weather events, and, perhaps, illness. Some dog owners are convinced their woofers have psychic abilities and have been astounded by their ability to predict disasters. Our mystical mutts are tuned to this world picking up on things that are beyond us. 

We know they have a masterful sense of smell and hearing that can detect an earthquake or a storm, long before the sirens are sounded. It’s all over the Internet how dogs can sense seizures, strokes and cancer. Our remarkable dogs have served in world wars and become the most loyal companion to humankind, but its still a mystery how they know when something is wrong.


Signs a Dog is Trying to Tell You Something is Wrong

Our pet pooches have a few skills of their own, with remarkable senses that allow them to hear the rumblings of an earthquake under the earth or smell the changes in barometric pressure when a tornado is forming.

You might notice your pooch getting a little crazy as they scratch at the door, whine and bark. Some might say that’s nature, but how does a dog know when a person is ill? The short answer is their dynamic sense of smell can detect changes in hormones, which emit a certain odor. With up to 300 million scent receptors on hand, they are able to smell adrenaline and cortical, the “fight or flight” hormones that go ballistic when you are stressed.  They can also sense changes in a woman’s body chemistry, including higher levels of estrogen if she is pregnant.

You may feel that nothing gets past your dog, as they can look into your soul and know you are sad. Dogs get cues from your body language and facial expressions. That’s how they know that guy saying all the right things at the pet store is a complete jerk. Not many of us have learned to see what a dog instinctively knows as they low growl, guarding their owner against the guy whose bad news.

A tale of canine courage was reported by Metro, UK about two Border Terrier dogs named Holly and Poppy that saved their family from an attic fire. The dogs sensed something was wrong and scratched at the door to warn them. If you're gorgeous Griffin starts lunging at a stranger or jumping up and down, they might be trying to alert you that it's time to get up and run!

Body Language

Signs a pooch will give if they sense something bad may happen are:

  • Growling
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Guarding
  • Jumping Up
  • Scratching

Other Signs

<p>More signs that a dog will give when something seems wrong are:</p>

  • Anxious Behavior
  • Hiding
  • Running Away
  • Restlessness

History of a Dogs' Super-Senses


Dogs were once wolves, designed to sustain life in a wild landscape and given a few tricks to help them survive. This involved a super-star sense of smell and hearing which humans came to realize were assets that could make them and their new hunting pals supreme predators.

Luckily, dogs inherited the incredible senses of their wolf relatives and have astounded people throughout the ages with their ability to find lost people, sniff out bombs, drugs, and cash. Their sniffing centers are world famous as they are called in to search for gas and oil leaks along the pipelines and save a home from being destroyed by termites.

Their innate ability to sense when something is wrong has seen a pooch howl like a baby when someone in the family is about to pass. They can sense death and possibly even the electrical fields synonymous with ghost sightings. Dogs have been known to walk into a haunted house and begin playing with an unseen entity. Ancient cultures believed our ghost-hunter canines had a rite of passage to the supernatural and gods.

The senses that Mother Nature gave wolves have become mankind’s greatest find. We live in a technological age, but it's dogs who tell us when something is wrong. 

Science Studies How Dogs Know When Something is Wrong


Science has been keeping a close eye on dogs as no other species has ever gotten this close. They are aware their sense of smell is far better than ours, and they can hear frequencies between 20Hz and 60 Hz. People can hear up to 20Hz, giving dogs the advantage of hearing storms and earthquakes before they arrive. Loud noises with high frequencies can cause discomfort to dogs and are perhaps why some suffer from noise phobia.

Scientists are getting excited about the probability that dogs have UV vision. Up until now, it was thought a woofers sight was not their strongest sense, until The Daily Mail informed us this was not so. British researchers studied the eyes of animals, including dogs, that had previously died. They found their lenses let in a degree of ultra-violet light allowing them to see better at night and to see things in more detail than us. This could explain why some folks believe dogs can see the energy of ghosts and perhaps the changes in the sky before a major weather event.

Training Dogs to Sense Danger


Understanding how dogs conceive our human world will help us communicate easier with a species so different to us. Their senses are supreme and knowing they have UV vision challenges the superiority theory that some folks have about humans.

The word "anecdotal" is a constant when people refer to stories of dogs warning their families something was wrong. Ironically, dogs have been saving people from fires, water, and overland since they got to know us thousands of years ago. Perhaps the skeptics should read a bit more about how intuitive they are.

Take a stray dog in Russia that watched a child fall through the ice and barked like crazy for someone to notice. The four-year-old's mom had noticed the dog following her son around that day and believes the pooch had a 6th sense about what was to happen.

Mental Floss also tells us about Bandit, a Pomeranian/Poodle who was being looked after by friends of their guardian. The homeowner had put a hairbrush in a pot of water to be sterilized and went to bed. Bandit was on fire alert and could smell the toxic smoke. Unfortunately, the smoke detectors failed to work, so Bandit jumped up on his minder's bed who awoke and alerted the family.

How did Bandit and Naida know something was wrong and how to help? Was it their instincts or something else? Scientists have been trying to find ways to predict earthquakes for years and are amazed how animals leave an area days before the ground shakes.

Seismologists around the world are keeping tabs on China and their earthquake monitoring systems in animal centers, zoos, and parks. They believe animals are onto it and have seen enough evidence to appreciate that creatures are earthquake alarms.

Way back when the earth had no houses, streets, cities, or townsman, wolves, the grandparents of dogs, relied on nature as their guide. Today we spend more time on our mobiles and fail to hear the subtle sounds of impending doom. Dogs are still nature lovers and with their paws walking the earth, pick up what we fail to hear and smell.

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Written by a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 05/03/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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