Throughout history, we’ve passed down stories about ghosts: paranormal apparitions of those who have died, watching over us from the afterlife… or trapped in a state of limbo between life and death.
But despite all the storied legends, the eerie photos, and the assurances of psychic mediums, we still don’t know for sure whether or not ghosts really exist.
However, if you’re a dog owner, you may have experienced some of the most compelling evidence there is for the existence of ghosts. Dogs have a habit of barking, sniffing, and staring at what appears to be nothing… but what if there’s actually something there?
And what if that something is a ghost?
If you’re curious about your dog’s supernatural abilities, read on for some potential explanations.
What Dog Behaviors Are Attributed to Ghosts?
Many weird, creepy or otherwise inexplicable dog behaviors have been attributed to ghosts. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.
Staring at Blank Spaces or Walls
Dogs are known for their short attention spans, so when they do fixate on something, you know it’s a big deal.
But when that something is an empty wall, an unused corner, or a single blank spot on the ceiling, the vibe can switch from content to creepy in a split second. What’s he seeing that you’re not?
It could be a dust bunny or a tiny spider. He might have started thinking about something and spaced out, letting his imagination take over his actions.
Or, according to those who believe in the paranormal, he could be watching a wayward spirit drifting invisibly through the house.
Barking or Growling at Nothing
Dogs are sensitive to things that go bump in the night, whether it’s a burglar breaking in, your neighbor getting home late or just tree branches rustling in the wind.
Their protective instincts kick in instantaneously and they jump to attention, barking or growling to scare away any intruders and alert you to what’s going on.
But once in a while, many dogs start barking for no reason at all. Nothing moved or made a sound, but your dog got set off anyway — and despite your reassurances, he just won’t calm down.
Maybe his persistence is due to the fact that the perceived threat is still there. Its ghostly demeanor means that you can’t detect it, but your dog can, and he’s not backing down until it goes away.
Refusing to Enter an Area or Approach Something
Most dogs love exploring and checking out new things. So it’s reasonable to be alarmed when, for seemingly no reason, your dog balks at entering a certain room or building — especially if it’s one he’s been in before.
Is he just acting out for the fun of it? Or is he hesitating because he detects the presence of a ghost and wants to keep a safe, respectful distance?
Dog psychologist Stanley Coren tells of a colleague whose dog always froze up at a particular spot on a nearby walking trail. The reason remained a mystery until the colleague discovered that, years prior, a college student had been found dead at that exact spot.
Coren’s colleague believed that his dog was detecting the ghost of the dead student, whose cause of death was never determined. Perhaps the unresolved nature of the death prompted the ghost to stick around, and the dog knew better than to disturb its haunt.
Why Might Dogs Be Able to Sense Ghosts When We Can’t?
Common knowledge goes that our eyesight is better than our dogs’. So if they can see ghosts, that begs the question: what do they have that we don’t?
Well, your dog’s ability to detect ghosts might be a combination of all of his senses — including, potentially, one we don’t understand.
Dogs Can See Extremely Well in Low Light
We typically judge a creature’s vision based on how well it can see details and discern colors. But that’s an anthropocentric way of looking at vision, and if we open our minds to other metrics, we can begin to understand what our dogs see.
The life of a dog in the wild centers around hunting. Dogs need to be able to detect even the tiniest of movements to find prey, and they need to do so in the darker hours of the day when the best prey is most active.
For this reason, your dog’s eyes are loaded with rods — the ocular cells that detect light and motion. This comes at the expense of cones, which detect colors, but the tradeoff is worth it: when it’s too dark for us to see anything, dogs can use even the dimmest light to navigate their surroundings.
And ghosts, if they’re real, are beings of low light. Though they may be too subtle for us to see, our dogs have spent thousands of years evolving to pick up on subtleties, so ghosts may appear to them clear as day.
Dogs Can Hear Frequencies That We Can’t
Whether it’s the low, constant rumble of a haunted house or the piercing high shriek of a distraught spirit, many eerie noises have been attributed to ghosts.
So imagine how many noises they might be making that are too high or too low for us to hear!
While humans’ hearing maxes out at around 20 kHz, dogs can hear sounds as high as 67 kHz. And they can hear them from up to four times as far away as we can, making your dog’s world much louder and noisier than your own.
And ghosts could be a part of that cacophony. It’s a little tragic to think that we could be surrounded by spirits trying and failing to make themselves heard — but a little reassuring to think that our dogs could be listening to them and keeping them company.
Dogs Have Supernatural Smelling Abilities
When your dog sniffs a spot on the sidewalk, he’s smelling the history of that spot: all the shoes that have stepped there, the trash that’s been left there, the other dogs that have peed there.
And to him, those scents appear incredibly detailed. He can smell the ages of the dogs that have peed there and even the moods of the people who have passed by.
So when there’s a ghost nearby, your dog’s nose probably knows about it first. Before you even enter a room, he may be able to tell whether anything ghostly has occurred in it — and whether it’s currently occupied by a spirit.
Dogs Don’t Second-Guess Their Intuition
When exploring the supernatural, you’re entering territory that’s uncharted by science. And that means you have to trust your gut and let your intuition take the lead — you have to put faith in your ability to perceive the unperceivable.
For many of us, this is where we get hung up. We may feel an unexplained chill in the air or get the sense that we’re not truly alone in a room, but since our classic senses can’t verify it, we quickly dismiss it and move on.
Though second-guessing ourselves can be helpful in many situations, it may also be holding us back from experiencing the paranormal, including ghosts. And that may be the real secret behind your dog’s ability to detect ghosts: he always follows his instincts and doesn’t try to explain away his odd perceptions.
Your dog doesn’t know that there’s no concrete scientific evidence that ghosts exist — he doesn’t even know what science is.
All he knows is that he senses something, and his open-mindedness may not just make him better at seeing ghosts. It may make ghosts more willing to reveal themselves to him, as they know he won’t just write them off as tricks of the mind.
Could I Be Influencing My Dog’s Ability to See Ghosts?
Projection and the power of suggestion are, ironically, quite ghostly. We can’t perceive them or quantify them, but their lack of tangibility makes them no less real.
And if you believe in ghosts, they could help to explain your dog’s behavior.
When you’re grieving a recent loss, it’s normal to see, hear or feel your loved one around you, even though they’re not there. It’s your brain filling in the blanks with what used to be there: the sights and sounds of the person who passed away.
The same thing could be happening to your dog, whose brain is also still yet to fully adjust to the loss.
What’s more, your dog could be feeding off your energy and matching his emotions to yours. He may pick up on your desire to have your loved one back, and so he may go off in search of them, finding lingering scents and alerting you to them.
And because we tend to see what we want to see, your gut interpretation may be that he’s found your loved one’s ghost.
The truth is, we may never know whether what he’s seeing is real or not. But what we do know is that many people find comfort in the idea that those who have died aren’t really gone — and in the idea that dogs can let us know they’re still with us.