Extra Sensory Perception or Incredibly Developed Sensory Skills?
Do dogs really have a 6th sense or have they developed some exceptional skills through observation and the utilisation of their strongest senses?
Is there a scientific explanation for the way dogs can sense a storm, danger, illness or even your mood or is it some kind of doggy voodoo?
To explore this subject objectively we need to look at a dog’s senses in comparison to our own. Unlike humans dogs rely on their sense of smell foremost followed by sight then hearing.
A dog’s brain is only 1/10th of the size of a human brain however the part of their brain that is responsible for smell in 40 times bigger than the equivalent part in a human brain. The sensitivity of a dog’s sense of smell is dependent on the breed but can range between 1,000 to 10,000,000 times greater than a human’s. So is it feasible that a dog might actually smell a storm approaching? Lightning ionises the air and it has been scientifically proven that sometimes even humans may be able to smell ozone in the air enabling us to sense a storm before it arrives so this is a real possibility. Undoubtedly a dog’s exceptional sense of smell can help it to detect illness and dogs have recently begun to be trained to sniff out Cancer in patients and have for years been able to detect signals before for example an epileptic seizure or a hypoglycaemic attack which is why they make such great assistance animals.
Although a dog can see better than a human in low level light conditions, such as dusk and dawn, their overall vision is not greater than a humans. Humans have better close up and long distance vision. Dogs tend to see things better when looking at moving objects. I can’t count the number of times I have been surprised that the group of dogs I am with haven’t noticed a stationary deer or rabbit standing nearby in the undergrowth. You have probably noticed yourself how you have to wave your arms around a bit to get your dog’s attention if they are a distance off or start walking away to get them to come back to you. I don’t think that is due to the fear of being left behind, I just think you are easier to spot if you are moving.
Dogs are born deaf but by the time their hearing is developed they can hear around 4 times the distance of a human and can detect sounds, again depending on the breed, in a frequency range of about 67 - 45,000 Hz compared to humans with the approximate range of 64 - 23,000 Hz. My dog howls at the sound of ambulances maybe yours hates the vacuum cleaner? This is because they are hearing pitches we are unable to detect.
So do dogs possess an extra sense or do they just have exceptional observational skills?
Some people believe that animals can “feel energy/emotions”. People may be able to give you many examples of when their dog has intuitively known of imminent danger, or their dog has know when they were feeling sad, when they were going to leave to go on holiday or sensing that they were going to be ill. Having spent a great deal of my time with dogs I believe that as they are unable to communicate using language they have become incredibly skilled observers. The dogs in my tribe certainly know when it is appropriate to lark about and when it is not but not because I have told them, I feel it is through observing my body language and my facial expressions and the tone of my voice. If I am apprehensive of a dog’s reaction to a certain situation the dog picks up on this and responds accordingly. I personally do not believe that this is a 6th sense I believe that I perhaps excrete a smell or exhibit body language that creates fear or apprehension within the dog. An example of this is with my lovely gentle cocker spaniel. He is a little bit aloof at times but never nasty. We have owned him since he was only 8 weeks old so we know his whole history. When he was tiny he looked so adorable everyone wanted to pet him and one day a small girl approached him to pet him and he really snapped having had enough of the attention. I was less experienced then and so after that incident every time we were in the vicinity of girls I would put him on the lead, I would become nervous and probably hold the lead a little bit tighter than necessary and feel stressed. Of course all these little signals are easy for a skilled observer to pick up and so unintentionally I taught Murphy to be apprehensive around small girls! I would like to point out this is rectified now!
Perhaps armed with the knowledge of how a dog interprets the world around him and trying to really observe and anticipate behaviour we can decide whether a dog has exceptional observational intelligence or a 6th sense and more importantly perhaps if we can concentrate on our body language and the signals we give out to the dogs in our care we can create a harmonious relationship with them. We can certainly continue to develop our relationships with our pets based on this better understanding and use the exceptional skills that they posses to help us diagnose and anticipate human illness.
If you have any experiences of unexplainable extra sensory perception I would love to hear them. Michelle@tailchasers.co.uk