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“Supernatural” abilities of dogs

Image: Wikimedia Commons

When you see a dog acting strangely – howling in the middle of the night or barking wildly at nothing – chances are that there really is something wrong. They have quite an array of proven and unproven abilities that are almost supernatural. Here are some of them:

Acute Sense of Smell

Dogs’ sense of smell is about 10,000 times that of humans. And when special training is added to that, like in the case of military dogs, then the results can be phenomenal. A dog can enter a neighbourhood and by sniffing the ground carefully, it will slowly lead investigators to a house where firearms have been stockpiled. Similarly, dogs trained for it can also detect narcotics in a harbour full of many containers that are themselves full of many goods.

If you’ve got a pet dog at home this has probably happened to you before. You arrive home carrying some food which is well hidden in a bag and under a lot of packaging but your dog still follows you keenly and doesn’t want to take its attention off your bag because it suspects actually knows there’s some food there.

Dogs can hear sounds humans can’t

It’s easy to think that we are the standard for what can be seen and heard in the world around us. Dogs can hear high frequency sounds that humans can’t – sounds with frequencies up to 60,000 Hertz. In comparison, humans can only hear sounds up to 20,000 Hertz. And even that’s only when you’re young.

A silent high pitch dog whistle

Before you’re tempted to doubt this one, a dog whistle is your sure sign that humans and dogs have very different auditory systems. The whistles don’t make any real sound to humans when you blow it but dogs hear and react to it.

Dogs Can See Ultraviolet Light (UV)

Canines are a bit disadvantaged when their eyesight is compared to humans. They do not perceive colour as well as humans do. On the flipside, dogs’ eyes can filter ultraviolet light which humans cannot see without the assistance of a special torch.

A passport under UV light. Dogs see the hidden features easily (Imgur/chachichachichicken)

Dogs can perceive the effect from “black light” which we humans use for crime scene investigation. As a result, they can see movement in the dark better than humans and also see things like dried urine trails and other body fluid trails and matter that absorb ultraviolet light.

A dog sees the barely visible drawing perfectly (Image: Hyan Wong)

These skills come in handy for marking their territories with urine and hunting small animals in the dark.

Emotional Intelligence

Pet dogs can tell when you’re in a bad mood. And when you’re sad, many of them have that intelligence to understand and demonstrate compassion towards their owners. Just like we know when our loved ones are down and need a hug, they know it too and will sometimes make body contact, offering the equivalent of a human hug.

Sometimes, they also knowingly put up a sad face to actually get attention from you, as dog cognition researchers at Portsmouth University discovered recently.

Dogs Can Tell When You’re Sick

Some dogs are able to tell when you’re sick. Sometimes they can tell even before you yourself know it. Some are actually trained for providing early warning to people who suffer from epileptic and other seizures. An organization known as In Situ Foundation, has trained more than 50 dogs in 12 years, to detect cancer in humans just by sniffing their breath. When combined in small teams, they can detect cancer with more than 90% accuracy!

Can warn about natural disasters

There are a lot of unanswered questions about this one, and people have offered various theories. Some say that before a big storm approaches, dogs can sense a change in atmospheric pressure. Besides, they can smell a storm when it’s still quite early. Others believe that they can hear sounds with very low frequencies which come from the ground just before earthquakes and volcanoes, and which humans cannot hear.

It was reported that just before the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka and India, many dogs refused to go on their morning walks along the beach. It’s not only dogs. Many other animals know how to flee incoming natural disasters.

Seeing Ghosts?

Can dogs see ghosts? Many people believe so. This one’s difficult to prove scientifically but given their special abilities, never say never.



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