Can Dogs See Ghosts? What Research Says · The Wildest

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Can Dogs See Ghosts? What Science Says

This isn’t The Sixth Sense, but dogs are powerfully perceptive.

by Savannah Admire
March 6, 2024
Corgi dog lays on the floor and looks away.
Anna Sorokina / Stocksy
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If you’re among the 45 percent of Americans who believe in the paranormal, you may feel a little freaked out when your dog stares at the wall or barks at seemingly nothing. Could a ghost be drifting through your home? Can dogs see ghosts in your house? Or is your pup just a weirdo?

The short answer is no one knows. Science is as uncertain about the existence of spirits and specters as it is about whether animals like dogs have a connection to the other side. But so much of canine personality and behavior is unexplained that a dog seeing a ghost isn’t entirely out of the question. Maybe these spooky moments aren’t just the stuff of scary movies. 

Dogs’ enhanced senses compared to humans

So, can dogs see ghosts or spirits? Dogs are more perceptive than humans in many ways, with more powerful senses of smell and hearing, as well as stronger night vision. They’re even more attuned to environmental changes and have been known to detect impending natural disasters before they actually happen.

Because of their incredible sense of smell, dogs can sniff out shifts in barometric pressure and other odors associated with natural events. Some dogs have also been trained to detect cancer or predict seizures, putting their strong sense of smell to use to detect changes that humans can’t perceive. 

Dogs also have a powerful sense of hearing and can hear higher frequencies than humans — about four times what the human ear can detect. They can even hear higher-pitched noises from much farther away, so if your dog suddenly barks, they may be reacting to a noise you can’t hear. 

While dogs are near-sighted (and also colorblind), their field of vision is wider than that of humans, and they are particularly adept at seeing in low light, like dusk, twilight, and dawn. Because of their strong vision, dogs may be able to see things we can’t, whether that is, in fact, a ghost, or just a squirrel sneaking around the far side of the yard.

Real-life dog reactions to “unseen” entities

Can dogs see ghosts and spirits? Many pet parents have experienced situations where their dog reacts negatively to something unseen. This can include barking, whining, or even demonstrating anxious or fearful behavior. Some dogs may stare down an empty hallway or at a wall or a spot on the ceiling, while others may be drawn to or avoid certain areas in the house. 

Dogs tend to be more demonstrative with their reactions and emotions, so even if your dog hears, smells, or sees something benign, their physical reaction may be big — and even startling. And your dog could just be anxious, quick to react to any noise they hear. 

Scientific research on dog “sixth sense”

Can dogs really see ghosts? What the science says is uncertain, both about dogs’ perception of the paranormal and the existence of ghosts in general. 

Dogs do have a “sixth sense” of sorts, which could also be described as instinct or perceptiveness. This means that they are often quicker than humans to tell when something is off. There are plenty of stories of dogs detecting medical emergencies before their human parents realized the issue. Plus, dogs are more likely to act on these gut feelings, paying close attention to the cues from their heightened senses and acting in response. And like many animals, dogs have an internal compass that helps with their sense of direction.

Theories about dogs’ paranormal perceptions

How can dogs see ghosts (if there are ghosts to see)? If something supernatural is going on, dogs would be more likely to notice than us. But it’s far more likely that a dog barking or staring at nothing is sensing something that you don’t. Dogs can pick up scents that were left behind hours or even days ago or may hear animals outside that are some distance away — and beyond human hearing. Many dogs are even able to read human emotions, so if you act frightened or anxious, it may trigger your dog to have a similar response.  

Another, more concerning potential reason for a dog’s reaction to unseen stimuli could be an illness or health condition. Just like humans, as dogs age, their senses grow weaker, and their behaviors may change. Some dogs experience a degenerative disorder similar to dementia or Alzheimer’s that can cause restlessness, pacing, or even staring off into space.

A dog triggered by things you don’t see could also be suffering from an anxiety disorder or a more unique condition like Laser Pointer Syndrome (yes, that’s a thing). In short, any number of things could reach your dog’s senses that you don’t perceive, whether paranormal or not.

Breeds with enhanced senses

Although the question “can cats and dogs see ghosts?” is impossible to answer, some dogs do have particularly powerful senses. While all dogs have stronger senses than humans, some breeds are even more attuned to smells, sounds, and sights. Dog breeds that were originally bred for working or hunting often have more keener senses. Pointers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Beagles, and any type of Hound are more likely to react to stimuli that their human parents don’t see or hear because these dog’s senses tend to be especially powerful. 

Debunking other theories

If you believe in ghosts, you’re more likely to project that idea onto your pet’s unusual behavior, but dog’s heightened senses allow them to perceive things that humans simply can’t. When your dog halts and their fur stands on end, they may be reacting to a high-pitched or distant sound that you’re unable to hear. And if they seem especially drawn to a room or piece of furniture where a lost loved one used to spend time, they could be detecting old smells that have faded beyond a human’s ability to recognize. 

FAQs (People also ask):

Can dogs see ghosts or spirits?

Science is out on whether ghosts even exist or whether dogs can see paranormal entities. 

How can dogs see ghosts?

If there are ghosts to see, dogs would be more likely to perceive them because of their stronger senses of sight, hearing, and smell, as well as their ability to pick up on changes in the atmosphere. 

Can dogs sense bad energy?

When a dog spends a lot of time with a human, they may become attuned to that person’s negative emotions and pick up on them easily. “Negative energy” could be related to a sound or smell that dogs detect and react to. 


Savannah Admire

Savannah Admire is a writer, editor, and pet parent to two dogs and a cat. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing Animal Crossing, or being an obnoxious nerd about her favorite movies and TV shows. She lives in Maryland, where she constantly debates whether or not to get a third dog.

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