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Can Dogs Sense Spirits?


We know that our canine counterparts have extraordinary senses that, in many cases, are far superior to our own. Movies, books, and even folklore depict pups as being extra-perceptive to the paranormal.

But is it legitimate to think that dogs can sense spirits, even when humans cannot?

First, we have to ask ourselves whether we believe in ghosts and/or an afterlife. If you don’t believe in either of these, there is no question to ask. But let’s assume that we believe in the existence of ghosts…

Energy & Senses

In order for spirits to “exist” in our world, they must give off some sort of palpable energy. Whether they manifest as a vision, as a poltergeist, as a strange noise, or simply by giving witnesses an eery feeling, in order to make their presence known, they need energy. Sight, sound, movement, temperature, light–all this is energy.

You know that a dog’s senses are more capable of picking up tiny traces of this energy. But are they fine-tuned enough to detect the presence of ghosts?

For starters, a dog’s hearing is four times stronger than a human’s. To put this in perspective, The Bark states that they “can hear the high-frequency pulse of the crystal resonator used in digital alarm clocks and bodily vibrations of termites in the walls.” While they can’t see in total darkness, dogs can see quite well with just a little light. And their sense of smell is up to 10,000 times better than ours, giving them the ability to sniff out bombs, cancers, and blood sugar drops.

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Could it be that our perceptive pups hear subtle echoes, see faint outlines, or smell the lingering scent of perfume from years gone by?

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Predictions & Peculiar Behavior

You’ve undoubtedly heard about dogs predicting things before they even happen, like earthquakes, storms, and oncoming seizures in humans. Stories of them acting strangely, even fleeing the area, have been considered early warning signs of natural disasters. Their ability to sense atmospheric changes and vibrations is almost supernatural in itself.

But what does it mean when your dog acts strangely? Have you seen him staring at what appears to be nothing for minutes at a time? Bark at some phantom noise? Howl at the moon? Run into another room for no apparent reason?

Skeptics might attribute this strange behavior to dog’s superior senses picking up on the scent of an animal outside or the sound of a passerby across the street. But people who believe in the paranormal might think that their pooches have detected something otherworldly. Then again, there could be a storm a-brewin’ in the distance.

Folklore & Stories

For centuries, different cultures have believed in the canine’s connection to the paranormal. Dogster explains, “According to anthropologists Frédéric Laugrand and Jarich Oostent, Inuit communities in the Arctic believed dogs to have a number of unusual powers and properties.” The article also tells of a breed in Korea that was thought to have the ability to exorcise spirits. There was even a belief by the Parsi people that dogs could not only see death, they could help guide departing spirits into the next world.

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Then there are more modern stories. Animal Planet paraphrases a story from the book Tails of the Afterlife by Peggy Schmidt:

[There was] a woman named Del Johnsen who left seven dogs and six cats when she passed away. Numerous witnesses believe she still visits her pets daily, and report seeing the animals suddenly gather in one spot, cats arching their backs and purring, dogs flopping over for a belly rub, wriggling in enjoyment, all of them sitting at attention and staring into the air before resuming their own activities.

Even more recently, a 2015 BuzzFeed article called 17 Scary Stories Of Pets Sensing The Supernatural recounts spooky first-hand tales from readers.

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What’s more, there are tons of stories–many of which we’ve covered on iHeartdogs–that tell of dogs remaining loyal to their humans even after they’ve passed. If a dog’s bond with its human can transcend death, who’s to say that they can’t perceive the presence of someone who has crossed to the other side?

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What do you think?

Unlike humans, dogs don’t have a concept of rationality or disbelief. If a dog think its deceased owner is going to return to the spot where he was last alive, it will keep waiting. Likewise, if a dog sees a transparent shape or hears a disembodied noise, it’s not going to rationalize, “that must have been strange lighting” or “maybe that sound was the wind.”

We’ll never know for sure if dogs can see ghosts, because quite frankly, we can’t ask them (and even if we could, would we believe their answer?).

Here’s my two cents: if ghosts really do exist, I don’t think it’s so far-fetched to believe that our pups are especially perceptive to the paranormal. If I were to walk into a haunted house, I’d certainly feel safer with my pooch by my side.

A photo posted by Betty (@bettybruti) on

We want to know what YOU think: Can dogs detect ghosts? And if you have any paranormal stories involving your pooch, please share them with us! 

Written by Karen Harris

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