6 min read


Can Dogs Sense Things?



6 min read


Can Dogs Sense Things?


Our dogs are a source of wonder as they continue to surprise us with the things they can sense Equipped with the intuitive talents of their forefather, the wolf, a Beagle or Pug camped out on your sofa is a waterfall of perception. Our gut feeling told us they were pretty cool creatures, but many folks were convinced they were devoid of such abilities. 

Now the cat - or should we say the dog - is out of the bag and has a fan base in science. This century has been a busy time for pooches with their sensory expertise is exposed as miraculous. The kennel door is shutting on the past as we unravel the growing list of things our woofers can sense.


Signs a Dog is Sensing Something

Ever noticed how your dog reacts to an approaching storm? Their doggy dance of fear might seem like they are excited, but if Casper, your usually placid Chow, is whining and hiding under the kitchen table, you might want to check the weather report. 

Casper can sense the changes in the air and hear the thunderclap far off in the distance. His wolfy-DNA is reminding him to take cover. He’s also barking and bouncing on his back legs trying to get your attention. Casper is tuned to his environment and can sense the atmospheric changes. It’s no wonder some dogs develop phobias to thunder as they hear the build-up long before it’s crashing overhead.

Casper can also sense your mood, and Elite Daily confirmed this to be true with a study by a researcher at the “Clever Dog Lab” in Vienna. Over fifty woofers were played sounds of people crying and laughing along with dogs happily playing or whimpering. There was also a neutral audio of nature. The woofers were able to decipher the sounds and showed an emotional response to the sad sounds while checking out their owner.

If you’ve had distressing news, you might have noticed Casper whimpering in sympathy and trying to put his head in your lap. Dogs are mood readers and wag their tail to make you smile.

Science might have to catch up with “pregnancy detector dogs” who can tell their pet-mom is with child. Increases in estrogen and progesterone hormones might alert Casper to your altered state. His nose is an extra-terrestrial asset with around 220 million scent receptors. According to New Kids Center, a pooch may pick up on changes in their guardian’s body and mood. Then, its mother love as your midwife-mutt bestows licking kisses and paces around the home behind you.

Dogs and other animals have been known to go stir crazy before a mammoth earthquake. Researchers in China studied this phenomenon and were prompted to set up monitory sites in parks and zoos. Dogs can hear around 4 times further than humans and can tilt their ears to hear more. They can also categorize sounds the way they do smells. 

Can a dog sense ghosts? This door to the other side is opened as pooches play-bow and pant in old scary houses. You-Tube highlights un-nerving scenes of anxious pups staring at walls and barking. It is thought they can see electromagnetic fields, which is how ghost hunters using EMF meters try to detect spirits.

Body Language

Some signs a pooch can sense things are:<br/>

  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Panting
  • Wag Tail
  • Twitching Whiskers
  • Whimpering
  • Play Bowing

Other Signs

More signs a dog may be sensing something include:<br/>

  • Sniffing The Air
  • Barking At Nothing
  • Nervous Behavior
  • Hiding
  • Running Away
  • Aggressive Behavior

The History of Dogs Sensing Things


It seems an extinct grey wolf that once stalked the earthly plains got curious about a species that used weapons to bring down their prey. The current synopsis is one or more of these wolves got to know humans, via their Elk cooking on the campfire. Centuries later, we are amazed to find researchers have created an awesome doggy-family tree.

Geneticists at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda Maryland spent close to twenty years frequenting dog shows and getting DNA samples from folks around the planet. What they wanted to know was how individual breeds were created. They obtained over a 1000 samples taken from 161 breeds.

Dogs were grouped together in clades to match their characteristics. This included woofers designed to herd like the Border Collie and dogs engineered for the hunt. What was fascinating is how some breeds were used to make changes to the others. Who would have known, the adorable Pug, which originated in China, was used by early European breeders to make toy breeds. Researchers found many small pooches have Pug genes.

It must have been like unwrapping a Christmas present when the origins of dogs were revealed. This important work opened a window of discovery as to how various breeds have similar illness traits. Back then, breeders knew nothing about genetics, so they made their perfect pooch by crossbreeding to get the desired traits. All breeds of dogs have one thing in common - their amazing senses, that come from the wolf

The Science of Dogs Sensing


Dogs are poking their noses into everything, including stinky whale scat and human remains. They are digging up ancient artifacts and diagnosing people with cancer. Their instinctive attitude gets the job done, sniffing for drugs, explosives, and bed bugs. These furry fans of us humans love using their satellite sense of hearing to find people lost in the rubble after a major earthquake.

Dogs’ actually have the same amount of senses as humans. Smelling and hearing ace us every time, but their taste sense is not on par with ours. We like to smell first, while pooches just dive in. You’ve seen it when their food bowl goes down and it’s a feasting session with ears covered in food. This is possibly why they have no issue sniffing lamp-posts and another dog’s rear end.

Dogs are addicted to touch and it begins with the mamma dog giving her pups lots of love and licking. Socialization with people ensures dogs get to know how nice it is to be petted. It’s also necessary for those visits to the vet when they may need to touch different parts of the dog’s body. All touch should be a positive experience, allowing a pooch to bond with their owner and be petted by others.

Training Tips to Enhance a Dog's Unique Senses


Out of the five senses our dog’s posses, the star makers are hearing and smell. It's that exceptional moment when a search-and-rescue pup hears a muffled cry amongst piles of debris or a St. Bernard sniffs a skier trapped under the snow.

We owe a huge debt to dogs, who work tirelessly without complaining or asking for higher wages. These days, dogs are recognized as gold and trained with positive methods to promote a chain of trust.

When a K-9 is faced with a life-threatening event, their training kicks into gear and the rest is down to instinct. Their wolf-ancestor was a wise counsel who instilled the traits needed to defy danger. Dogs have taken a bullet for their handler, showing a unique loyalty to their human pals.

Dogs have a lot of fans who appreciate their caring ways and the service they give to the blind and people with seizures and depression. Their senses are immeasurable and helping to push back crime. They are honorable members of the police force and decorated dogs in the military.

Dogs can be trained to sniff anything, it‘s just a matter of choosing the scent. They start school at an early age and learn to target a specific smell. Drug detector dogs can smell more than one drug and that’s down to their olfactory system that can distinguish one scent from another. This makes them a force to be reckoned with as airport sniffer dogs!

Some trainers use cardboard boxes and a white towel, or a toy covered in the scent. The CIA has been seen on Twitter introducing their trainee pups. They impress training is only positive and the dogs are rewarded with treats. Looks like their preference is Labrador Retrievers, for their friendly, energetic natures. The Central intelligence agency trains their scent dogs with cans. They also use a process called imprinting.

When a pup is newly born, their mom imprints her personality. This is an integral time for a puppy as they pick up on the mood of their mom. Once they leave the nest, pups are introduced to the world. If they are going to be sniffer dogs, a certain scent is imprinted on their brain.

A trainer featured on Pedigree Database tells how she taught a cadaver dog by soaking a tennis ball in the pseudo smell of human remains. She then played with the puppy, imprinting them with the scent. Learning to detect the smell in boxes followed on until the scent was permanently ingrained. 

Have questions or concerns about your pet?

Chat with a veterinary professional in the Wag! app 24/7.

Get Vet Chat

By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Published: 06/13/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

Wag! Specialist
Need to upgrade your pet's leash?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.