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Can Dogs See Ghosts?

Dog in spooky setting
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Imagine you’re on a nice, crisp autumn walk with your dog. The leaves have already turned, and there’s a slight breeze in the air. As you walk you notice an old house at the end of the block. It’s falling apart – with broken windows and a heavy chain strewn across the front door to keep trespassers out. 

The house has always creeped you out, but the time of year and quickly setting sun make you want to turn around on the spot and head in the opposite direction immediately. Suddenly, your dog stops in the middle of the road, just staring at the house before going into a barking fit. 

The house has been vacant for years, but now your dog won’t stop growling and pulling. Which begs the question: can dogs see ghosts?

Dogs and Spirits: A Historical View 

Okay, so the above scenario was made up to set a spooky scene – but most pet owners have had an experience where their own dog starts barking or growling at seemingly nothing. So questions about whether or not dogs have a sixth sense for ghosts and spirits are not uncommon. 

For starters, it might not hurt to take a look into the past to review the position dogs have held across different cultures, particularly when it comes to the supernatural and spiritual world. 

Much like today, canines throughout the ancient world were heavily involved in the lives of humans. They were domesticated and regarded as faithful companions, hunting partners, and important parts of family units. However the dog’s role as a spiritual guide was much more prominent in the past than in modern times. 

For instance many Native American tribes honored dogs in religious ceremonies, at times burying them with their deceased owners to provide companionship and help the soul pass on to the other side. Similarly, ancient Greeks believed journeying lost souls encountered Cerberus, a three-headed canine guardian of the Underworld. 

And like a dog may protect the home and family it lives with, ancient Uruk cultures carried amulets of canine-like figures for personal protection outside of the house. Furthermore, canine figurines and statuettes recovered from the ruins of cities like Nineveh and Kalhu held inscriptions referring to a dog’s ability to protect against danger. 

Can Dogs See Ghosts? 

Spooky dog outside on hill

If you believe in the supernatural in some sense, you may also believe in the existence of ghosts and their ability to surround or inhabit physical places. If that’s true, given their ability to sense beyond human capabilities, can dogs see ghosts? 

Unfortunately, there is no actual scientific research to support that dogs can see ghosts or sense any paranormal activity. 

But this idea that dogs have held inherent power throughout history and across cultures suggests that modern pet parents are not the first humans to consider whether or not dogs can see ghosts. Which also leads into the beliefs of the individual. If you believe in the existence of ghosts and the supernatural, you may be more inclined to believe that your dog can also recognize this world. 

Pet parent and paranormal researcher Scott Orlansky of Ghost Bros. Paranormal Research Team believes dogs can sense spirits and paranormal occurrences, based on personal experience with his own dog, Flash. 

“[Flash] reacts to paranormal happenings that occur in my own home, which I believe to be haunted by the spirit of a former owner,” says Orlansky. “Often, a strange occurrence or sound in the house is accompanied by skittish and abnormal behavior from Flash. There are times where he will stare puzzled at a wall, into a corner, or up the stairs. This behavior is typically followed by some strange noise, phantom smell, or atmospheric change in the room.”

Orlansky says he subsequently documents these behaviors with equipment used in paranormal investigation, including electro-magnetic field (EMF) detectors, laser thermometers, and digital voice recorders.

So while we may not have absolute scientific proof of a dog’s ability to see ghosts at this time, that shouldn’t end the continued pursuit of knowledge and curiosity of the unknown. Especially when it comes to trusting the intuition of our canine companions. 

Dog Barking and Growling at Nothing: What It Might Mean

Dog growling

Sometimes, like in Flash’s case, you might notice your dog barking and growling at what appears to be nothing. While it might suggest the eerie presence of the unknown, there can be a variety of reasons for this sudden behavior. 

If it’s a blank wall in your home, there may be an infestation of some kind or a shadow that flicked across the wall. Approach the wall or place carefully and quietly and listen for any slight humming. The source could be insects like bees, hornets, or termites. But the cause could also be something as simple as a loud storm or nearby construction spooking your dog and making him feel uncomfortable or vulnerable 

However, don’t rule out sickness or injury either. Barking or growling may be an outward sign to you that your dog is uncomfortable or in pain. In this case, your dog would likely also display other symptoms indicating an underlying issue. However, if this behavior continues, you should seek the advice and medical attention of your veterinarian. 

This is especially true in the case of older dogs. Much like humans, aging dogs can exhibit symptoms of senility, and Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) could be a potential concern.

In any case, getting to the bottom of the cause behind this behavior is an important step in ensuring the health and well-being of your dog. Consider when the growling or barking occurs, if it happens at the same time or the same area, and the general frequency. Also assess if your dog is in any pain or discomfort outside of these moments. In all likelihood, barking or growling shouldn’t be a major concern, but taking extra precautions never hurts. 

What Dogs Can See That Humans Can’t 

While there is no definitive proof that dogs have “ghost vision” to see spirits and the unknown, their senses are much more attuned than our own. 

For one, dogs have an extremely powerful sense of smell, making them aware of potential disasters or dangerous situations before they happen. These include things like changes in barometric pressure, smoke from a fire, a gas or carbon dioxide leak, or other natural disasters. 

When it comes to hearing ranges, dogs have humans beat. Higher pitched noises – to the higher registers at 44 kilohertz – are no problem for canines. Which is why we can’t hear dog whistles, and why that slight humming in your wall might be something to worry about!

Dogs can also literally see better than humans in many ways as well, especially in lower light settings like early morning or later in the day. With a wider field of vision, dogs are capable of seeing people, animals and objects at greater distances than us. So though your dog may see something you can’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a ghost. 

The Creepy (or Not-So-Creepy) Conclusion

Outside of the normal senses that both dogs and humans can experience, sometimes it seems dogs have that extra something that humans can’t always access. Call it a sixth sense or trusting your gut, but it always seems that dogs are more intune. 

For instance, have you ever noticed a dog anticipate his pet parent’s arrival after a long day out of the house, minutes before they actually appear? Or the uncanny ability of some dogs to recognize sadness or even sickness in humans, providing gentle comfort and a calm presence? 

While a sixth sense in normal day-to-day interactions isn’t necessarily a direct line to seeing ghosts, we still can’t rule out the possibility, can we? Either way, even if your dog can’t see ghosts, you should always trust their intuition and follow-up on any concerning behavior!