If you have a dog, there’s a good chance that he or she has exhibited some unexplainable behavior. Running through the house as if chased by … something. Growling at unseen things. Intently staring at walls for no reason. There’s probably a rational explanation for every time your dog appears to be reacting to something that isn’t there.
But it’s almost Halloween, so we have to ask the question: Have you considered that your dog is seeing ghosts?
Since this is an educational blog, we’ll amend the question and then try to answer it. Can your dog see ghosts?
It would explain a lot, really, and it might even be comforting to pet parents to know that there was a reason for the 2 a.m. zoomies. Maybe that’s easier to accept than just assuming that your dog was bored and decided to race pell-mell through the house for no reason at all. Unfortunately, since there’s no scientific evidence that ghosts actually exist (there’s also no evidence that they don’t, however), it’s impossible to determine whether dogs can see them. But what we can determine is that usually there is a reason for your dog’s otherwise weird behavior.
And that reason is that dogs have super-senses, at least compared to human. If your dog is reacting to something that you can’t see or hear, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing there. It just means that their scope of sensory awareness is beyond yours.
According to the American Kennel Club, dogs can hear sounds as high as 47,000 to 65,000 hertz (Hz), where humans are lucky to hear things in the 20,000 Hz range. This means that the average dog can hear things at a pitch more than three times higher than the average human. That opens up a whole world of possibilities. Mice, for instance, do produce sounds that humans can hear. But research has proven that they’re capable of producing squeaks well out of the range of human hearing: if your dog is staring or growling at “nothing” in the corner of the room, they might just hear a mouse (which is maybe even scarier than a ghost) or some other high-pitched sound on the other side of the wall.
The nose knows
Although there’s no definitive research in the limits of the canine sense of smell, researchers think that it’s anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than the human sniffer. Even if we’re going with the more conservative number, that means that if you can smell meat being grilled out on the patio, your dog can conceivably smell the same thing more than two miles away. It would be pretty easy for your dog to sniff a chipmunk scurrying around the backyard, even from your bedroom in the middle of the night. And what dog could resist barking at a chipmunk, even through a wall?
Eyes on the prize
Comparing a dog’s vision to a human’s is tricky because they’re just designed for different things. By human vision standards, dogs are technically nearsighted, but they have greater peripheral vision than people (able to see about 250 degrees compared to our 180), and see a lot better than humans in the dark. So if something is out there in the dark, they’ll see it.
Potentially a scary issue
Fun and games and ghosts aside, if you do notice your dog behaving differently than usual, it could be a sign of canine cognitive dysfunction, a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease in people. Aimless wandering, lack of response, sudden nighttime hyperactivity, wall staring, and a loss of house training are signs that you should contact your veterinarian.
About those ghosts…
So can your dog see ghosts? If they existed, dogs would likely see, hear or smell them coming long before you did. But since there’s no hard evidence of ghostly activity, it’s more likely that your dog is just reacting to things that you aren’t aware of.
Or maybe they’re just messing with you.
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