There are many stories of dogs who have showed up to predict the future.
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Dogs do fantastic things. Anybody who may have shared their life with a canine companion will tell you they’re the most caring and sensitive of creatures, often behaving as if they can read our minds, or have some kind of extrasensory perception.
Some people believe that’s exactly what they do have. After all, there are countless reports of dogs who have appeared to foresee the future, predicting and even avoiding accidents and disasters.
Then there are animals who have made amazing journeys in order to reunite themselves with their owners. So much of what dogs do is baffling to the point of being inexplicable. But can they really be psychic?
Researchers believe what appears to be a sixth sense is actually a highly enhanced functioning of the existing five.
“Dogs live in a different sensory world to us,” explains clinical animal behaviourist Rosie Barclay. “While we perceive the world around us primarily in visual terms, their world is one of scent and hearing.”
Dogs’ hearing is around four times more powerful than ours: they can register sounds on frequencies that humans can’t begin to detect and, if we can hear something 20 feet away, a dog can hear it 80 feet away. With ears that can revolve like satellite dishes, they are also better equipped to discern which direction a sound is coming from.
They can literally hear a pin drop.
But a dog’s hearing is nothing compared to its sense of smell. While the canine brain is only one tenth the size of a human’s, the part that processes smells is 40 times larger. And while we have a mere five million scent glands, dogs have up to 300 million, depending on the breed.
That’s how dogs accomplish feats of perception that seem almost supernatural to our human eyes. It’s also why they are so useful to the forces of law and order, with their ability to detect pieces of explosive the size of a pinhead or tiny components of mobile phones that have been smuggled into prison.
Even more impressive is the kind of information the dog can sniff out for itself. “Merely by scenting another dog’s urine, a dog can establish all sorts of information: how old it is, what sex, whether they’ve met,” explains Rosie.
“When a dog goes out in the morning and sniffs the air it can literally tell what’s passed, what’s present, and what’s on its way into its environment.”
So dogs really can see into the future – even if only a short distance. They can also tell what the weather is going to do, since they’ll register a slight change in barometric pressure that we humans are blissfully unaware of.
But it’s not just their incredibly heightened senses that help dogs amaze their owners. “Dogs have evolved with us over thousands of years and are pretty smart at picking up on the tiniest of clues,” explains Rosie.
And while not quite in the Sherlock holmes class, their deductive powers are pretty smart. “For example, if you often put lipstick on before you go out,” adds rosie, “the dog will know that you’re intending to leave as soon as that make-up drawer is opened.”
Dogs accomplish feats of perception that seem almost supernatural to our human eyes
Dogs live in a different sensory world to us
Psychologist Dr Juliane Kaminski of Portsmouth University agrees. “One thing we do know is that dogs have evolved outstanding abilities to read human non-verbal communication,” she explains. “research suggests that their skills in this area are exceptional when you compare them to the rest of the animal kingdom. They even outperform our closest living relative, the chimpanzee.”
This rapport is thought to be a result of dogs’ adaptation to life with humans, and humans’ manipulation of the genetic make-up of dogs, via selective breeding. Put simply, over the centuries our pets have been chosen for certain qualities – including their ability to know what we’re thinking.
Research shows that dogs have become very adept at watching and interpreting human eye movements – often a dead giveaway of what we’re thinking or about to do.
And yes, your dog really does know when you’re upset. “A pet dog knows what is normal behaviour for its owner, and can sense when something deviates from that,” says Rosie Barclay.
“We act differently when we’re upset and they pick up on this – both through our body language and because our emotions affect the smell of our body chemicals. Then the dog acts differently, too.”
And, of course, dogs are famously quick to learn what kind of behaviour brings rewards. “That’s what makes them such great companions,” observes Rosie.
Canis lupus may have been man’s best friend for thousands of years, but it’s beginning to look embarrassingly as though they know more about us than we do about them. In fact, there’s a growing body of research showing that dogs may actually possess a degree of emotional empathy equal to that of a human child.
In the same way that humans can catch a yawn from each other, dogs were previously thought to respond to humans via what is known as emotional contagion, a kind of mimicking reflex. But it seems there’s more to it than mere copying.
“Dogs appear to be as upset as children when exposed to familiar people who seem to be in distress,” explains biomedical scientist Dr Karine Silva of the University of Porto. “This strongly suggests that they have a sympathetic concern.”
She also points out that even untrained dogs can be sensitive to human emergencies, such as sudden illness, and may act appropriately to summon help – which, she adds, demonstrates the ability to empathise. In other words, dogs may be able to put their paws in our shoes and understand what we’re feeling.
Not that they’re above using this for their own benefit, rather than ours. Dr Kaminski recently carried out research which showed that dogs were more likely to steal food from their owners in a dark room than in a well-lit one. they would also take forbidden food if an owner’s eyes were closed.
“If we look at it rationally, dogs are simply developing a strategy that helps them get more food,” says Dr Kaminski.
Still, her findings seem to underline the idea that dogs have a rudimentary kind of empathy; an ability to see things from our perspective. they not only know when a human can’t see something, they can also take this information into account when making a decision.
So there is plenty of serious science that accepts the sometimes jaw-dropping abilities of the average pet dog, while explaining it all in reassuring rational terms. But most owners like to believe that the bond with their pet is a special one, based on some sort of emotional recognition that’s beyond understanding.
“There’s a vibrant field of research on that very question at the moment,” says Dr Kaminski. “We’re only just beginning to uncover what dogs really understand about the world they live in and us, their owners.”
In the meantime we will continue to read stories like the ones below, in which dogs do things that even science struggles to explain…
Every day Stephen Poynton takes his Labrador Samantha for a walk near their home in havant, hamphshire. “It’s the same run every day. Sam leaves the house with her ball in her mouth and we walk to the park,” explains Stephen.
But one morning two years ago, Sam suddenly stopped in her tracks and sat down, dropping her ball on to a manhole cover in their path and refusing to move.
“I called her a lazy dog and bent down to pick up her ball,” remembers Stephen. “As I did so, I noticed a hairline crack in the manhole cover. I tapped it with my toe and the whole thing caved in. If I had stepped on it, I would have fallen straight through. Sam probably saved my life.”
Many dog owners believe their pets can predict extreme weather, but dog breeder Wendy Brooks, 68, has a more remarkable story.
“Jessica’s a very relaxed dog,” she says of her boxer, who has been placed in Crufts. “But one day in 2008, she became extremely agitated for some hours. She was pacing and panting, refusing to eat and running to the door but refusing to go out. She would glance behind her as if something was there and then cower down in fear.”
That night Wendy was shaken awake at 1am by an earthquake that registered 5.2 on the richter scale. “When it stopped Jessica gave me a look as if to say, ‘I told you so,’ and settled down again.”
When Elvis, a six-year-old schnauzer-poodle cross, was left homeless due to his owner’s illness last year, he was taken in by one of the nurses who cared for her. But when his owner died on December 22 he bolted from his new home in Omaha, USA, and went missing for nine days.
He was found, bedraggled and exhausted, sitting outside the church where his owner had been buried. How Elvis had found the church, which he had never visited before and was seven miles from his home, no one was able to explain.
“Animals have a sense not readily available to us,” says Elvis’s vet, Dr Melissa Garner. “I don’t have a scientific explanation. It just reaffirms my belief that there’s more out there than we know.”
Article author:Ruby Millington, source: express.co.uk