Do Dogs Have a Sixth Sense?

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dog by doorBy Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a dog insurance and cat insurance agency.

The following is a question sent to me by a fellow dog owner, “My three-year-old Australian shepherd must be psychic or a mind reader. Each day before I arrive home, he waits for me in front of the living room win­dow. My kids get home from school before I do and they watch in amusement as Rocco stops playing and heads for his designated spot. Rocco likes everyone in the family, but he is definitely my dog. I don’t arrive home at the same time every day, but he is always there waiting. Does he really know when I’m on my way?”

You are blessed with an ESP — Extra Sensory Pooch! The quick answer is that some dogs do seem to pos­sess extrasensory powers, but we have yet to unravel the mysteries behind such canine abilities as sensing an earth­quake in advance, finding home from miles away, or alerting a person about to have an epileptic seizure. The topic has attracted scientists from all over the globe, including Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, former director of studies in bio­chemistry and cell biology at Cambridge University in England and author of Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Pow­ers of Animals.

Dr. Sheldrake suggests that the ability of some dogs to accurately anticipate the arrival of their owners depends on a kind of telepathic bond. He calls this his theory of morphic resonance. He has tested his theory with many dogs and their owners. The story of JT may help explain why Rocco seems to be able to read your mind. JT, a mixed breed dog, could accurately predict when his owner would return to her home in Manchester, England, and would be waiting for her at the front door. Sheldrake’s television crew set up two cameras, one on the owner when she prepared to head home from work and one inside her home. The return trips were entirely at random, made at different times with different modes of transportation, but JT managed to be in position to await his owner’s arrival 85 percent of the time.

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After collecting data on hundreds of similar situations involving dogs of various breeds and mixes, Dr. Sheldrake could find no link between “owner awareness” and level of intelligence, nor did he find any correlation to breed, age, or level of training. After five years of extensive research involving thousands of people who own and work with animals, however, Dr. Sheldrake conclusively proves what many pet owners already know – there is a strong connection between humans and animals that lies beyond present-day scientific understanding.

Whatever the explanation, Rocco clearly views you as his trusted ally and friend. Who needs a clock to tell time when his love for you appears timeless?

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This article has been adapted from its original version in Arden’s book, The Dog Behavior Answer Book.

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