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Can dogs predict weather?

Original Publication Date: March 7, 2016
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

On a perfectly sunny day dogs may pant, pace, and become agitated or clingy. Much later a severe storm arrives. For years, many believed that dogs could predict oncoming thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and even earthquakes and avalanches.

For some time, dogs were thought to be psychic or have a strange sense of ESP. Science now supports the idea that dogs can foretell approaching changes in the environment, but not because they have super powers.

You have no doubt gone out, sniffed the air and knew rain was on the way. A dog's sense of smell is up to 10,000 times as sensitive as ours so they can smell rain at much greater distances. Lightning ionizes air and forms ozone that has a distinct metallic smell. It is possible that a dog's keen sense of smell can detect this and other storm associated scents that hang in the humidity long before we are aware of an approaching storm.

Canine hearing is also much more acute than ours allowing them to hear thunder too distant for us to detect. It is also thought that dogs can feel the vibrations of thunder in their paws long before we can even hear it.

Dogs are also more sensitive to changes in barometric pressure than humans. A dog may learn to associate the feeling of a pressure drop with the approach of an oncoming storm.

Dogs predicting earthquakes has a long history. A Greek historian recorded dogs fleeing the city of Helice before it was destroyed by an earthquake in 373 BC. In 1975, the anxious behavior of dogs was noted in Haicheng, China.

Officials ordered 90,000 residents to evacuate the city. A few hours later a 7.3 magnitude earthquake destroyed almost 90 percent of the buildings in the city. Many other reports suggest that many animals, including dogs, can anticipate earth tremors long before an earthquake occurs.

Stanley Coren, Ph.D., noted animal behaviorist, observed that of 193 dogs in his study, 47 percent showed significantly higher activity levels and 49 percent had a marked increase in anxiety the day before a 6.8 magnitude earthquake shook the area.

Further investigation revealed that of 14 hearing impaired dogs in the study, only one showed any increase in anxiety or activity. That dog was living with a normal hearing dog that was not in the study.

He further categorized the dogs as those having floppy ears and those with pricked ears. The thought was that floppy ears would block, to a degree, any incoming sound. His data seemed to support the idea since the anxiety and activity levels of floppy eared dogs was less than that of pricked eared dogs.

Your dog does not have super powers, but he does have super senses. He may be even more accurate than the TV weatherman when it comes to predicting upcoming storms.


Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at HolisticTouchTherapy.com.