Have you ever heard someone say that dogs have a sixth sense? That's not to say dogs are haunted by the ghost of Bruce Willis, rather, they have a special kind of intuition that humans lack. If you're a dog parent, you probably think your pooch is pretty smart, but what if I told you that dogs have been known to predict natural disasters, sense a pregnancy, or warn of a diabetic attack? It really puts your own Fido's ability to play fetch or roll over in perspective.
While the idea of a dog's sixth sense might seem a bit far-fetched, there is plenty of evidence to back up our canine friend's special abilities. Various universities and organizations, such as Animal Planet and Psychology Today, have conducted extensive research on the subject and found logical reasoning for the seemingly odd behaviors. What was once an unsolved mystery now stands as further proof of the bond between dog and man.
But don't take our word for it – below you can explore the eight different sixth senses of dogs. If you've ever seen a dog do one of these things firsthand, we'd love to hear your stories. Dogs might not be magical, but they are pretty darn close.
Sixth Sense #1: Diseases and Cancers
If you notice your dog paying an unusual amount of attention to one of your body parts, you might want to schedule a doctor's visit. Dogs have been known to predict various human illnesses via volatile organic compounds, or VOC. Humans emit these naturally occurring odors through sweat, and while we can't smell them, dog noses are quite a bit more sensitive than ours.
How sensitive, you ask? Research shows that dogs can detect scents that are up to 100,000 times weaker than those detected by humans. To put that in perspective, a dog can smell just one teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water! With these facts in mind, it's no surprise that when the American Urological Association tested dog's ability to sniff our prostate cancer, they had a 98% accuracy.
Sixth Sense #2: Pregnancy
A woman's body goes through dramatic changes during pregnancy. Body chemistry and hormones shift, and as a result, body odor changes as well. While we can't smell this difference, our furry friends can. Many pregnant women report that their dogs became more protective during their pregnancy, escorting them from room to room, sniffing their belly, and lying close-by at all times.
It's an adorable image, but for first-time parents, it's important to remember that welcoming a new baby into the house is a big adjustment for your pooch. Spending quality time with them, as well as designating a spot in the house that is all theirs goes a long way in preparing them for the arrival of a new addition.
Sixth Sense #3: Natural Disasters
You know that saying, “if the ship is sinking, follow the rats?” Just as their instinct leads them to higher ground, dogs are able to sense when a big storm or earthquake is coming. In 1975, officials in Haicheng, China noticed that the city's dogs were acting strange, and ordered a mass evacuation just days before an earthquake struck the city. It registered 7.3 on the Richter Scale, and while 2,041 people were killed, it's estimated that the death toll would have been over 150,000 without the dogs' warning.
So, how do dogs predict the weather? Scientists know that they can pick up frequencies that humans do not register, as well as respond to sounds that we could never hope to hear (think dog whistle). With this in mind, it's not a far leap to hypothesize that they can pick up on changes in atmospheric pressure and gravity, too.
Sixth Sense #4: Human Generosity
I always say that I don't trust people who my dogs don't like, but come to find out, that statement has more merit than I ever expected. At the University of Milan, a study was conducted in which dogs observed two groups of people interacting with a homeless man. While one group was kind and shared food with the man, the other group was aggressive and told him to leave. And the dogs? They warmed up to the generous group immediately, and wouldn't have anything to do with the group they perceived as hostile.
Clearly, just as we read into tone of voice and body language when communicating with others, dogs watch for emotional cues from us.
Sixth Sense #5: Human Animosity
As we found out above, dogs don't respond well to humans they perceive as aggressive or hostile, but if one of these hostile individuals threatens their beloved human? All bets are off. An ordinarily mild-mannered dog may show their teeth, bark, or even charge when they sense a threat. In addition, some researchers believe that dogs may be able to pick up scents of dopamine and serotonin as our moods and emotions change.
However, one thing is for sure – that furry guy above isn't letting anything happen to his beloved girl!
Sixth Sense #6: Diabetic Attacks
Remember how I said that dogs can smell changes in body chemistry? Today, dogs are honing this ability as “diabetic alert dogs” for individuals with type 1 diabetes. They are trained to alert their master at the first sign of low blood sugar, by licking, nudging, or staring until they get a reaction from their human.
To learn more about these special dogs, check out Medical Detection Dogs website.
Sixth Sense #7: Depression
There's an unfortunate stigma surrounding depression, which often leads to the individuals becoming isolated and ostracized. No one seems to understand what they are going through, which makes the depression even worse. Some may even claim it to be fake or a cry for attention. Dogs, on the other hand, have an entirely different approach.
Researchers at the University of London found that dogs are actually more inclined to approach a person who is crying than one who seems happy. When a dog senses sadness, their instinct is to lie down near us, cuddle, and lick away our tears. In addition, dog owners are more likely to go outside, get exercise, and interact with other humans – all things someone with depression desperately needs.
Sixth Sense #8: Labor
Studies aren't sure if it's due to changes in physical actions or shifts in the smell of a woman's pheromones, but one thing is for sure – dogs always seem to know when a woman is in labor. Many women have reported their dogs to be restless in the days and hours leading up to their labor, and if you're having a home birth? You might want to bring Fido to the neighbor's house. The activity, changes in smell, and high energy is a very anxious environment for a dog.
Dogs also sniff women who are ovulating more frequently than those who are not. With all this in mind, I have to wonder, why do we always talk about the bond between "man and dog?" Seems to me that women and dogs have quite a special connection, too!