Some people don’t believe in the paranormal. They blame the dog’s actions for their heightened senses or surroundings, dismissing the idea of a supernatural connection. “Dogs” the word itself is enough to bring joy into anyone’s eyes. But does it also bring joy to the spirits? Have you ever noticed your dog barking at the wall in the twilight hours, where there is nothing for you but something for them to see? Dogs, with their senses, sometimes seem to react to certain supernatural sights we may even find hard to feel.
Moreover, the longstanding stories of dogs and spirits have woven their way through centuries, where it was believed that these loyal companies possess an innate ability to bridge the gap between the earthly and ethereal. While the presence of ghosts is still a moot debate, the gripping connection between dogs and ghosts adds an extra layer of mystery to the other side of the living, which is quite intangible to humans.
It could be a sudden gaze into empty air, a curious tilt of the head, or an unexplainable barking in the stillness of the night:
1. Mythology Surrounding Dogs and Spirits
The relationship between dogs and spirits traces back to a long time in history. Different cultures and regions have different beliefs about dogs and spirits. In several mythologies, legends depict them as guardians, intermediate between the dead and living, and guides of souls in the afterlife. As a whole, in both ancient mythologies and modern stories, the connection between dogs and ghosts persists and still remains a dispute.
1.1 Greek Mythology
Dogs played a major part in Greek mythology, especially in the underworld. One of the most recognized dogs is Cerberus, a three-headed dog that guards the underworld. It is often characterized as the guide of souls in the underworld. In scriptures, its primary goal is to prevent the living from entering the realm of the dead and ensure that deceased spirits do not escape.
1.2 Egyptian Mythology
Anubis is a dog, one of the most iconic deities in Egyptian mythology. It is represented as a jackal-headed figure(more like the head of a dog and the body of a human), reflecting his goal as a guardian of the dead. Many Egyptians believed that he was the protector of the deceased and their resting places. Moreover, he was always situated next to the tombs of many prominent figures, including Tutankhamun.
1.3 Mexican Mythology
Certain tribes of Mexico, such as the Tarascan and Aztecs, strongly believed that dogs were part of the protector gang, and they buried them along with the deceased. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is still believed that dogs would lead the souls in the afterlife as faithful guides and fight tooth and nail to safeguard them against the underworld spirits.
In other folklore, dogs are believed to possess heightened senses that enable them to perceive supernatural entities, making them natural defenders against ghosts.
2. How Can Dogs See Ghosts?
I still remember the night my dog, with his fur all rising up, barked at something that only he could see. It was indeed a horrific and scary moment for me and my dog. Before jumping to conclusions, let’s begin with the question, ‘Do dogs also sense other things that we can’t see or touch?’. Yes, dogs do have heightened senses, including keen hearing and a strong sense of smell, but are these enough to say dogs can see ghosts simply?
2.1 Sniffing Ability
Dogs have an exceptional sense of smell and can detect various scents, including those that humans might not see. With a vast number of olfactory receptors, dogs are specialized to distinguish different odours and exhibit an impressive memory, too. Sometimes, dogs use scent to communicate with other dogs and humans. You must have noticed that whenever a guest arrives at your home, your dog’s first action is to smell them. This is done to differentiate humans based on their scent. In the same way, there are many tales depicting dogs recognizing the spirits based on their scents.
2.2 Hearing Beyond Normal Audible Range of Humans
Till now, there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that dogs can detect ghosts through their senses of hearing or smelling. Dogs have a keen sense that helps them to hear things that humans cannot (due to humans’ broader frequency range). Humans cannot hear sounds above 20,000 hertz, whereas dogs can hear high-pitched sounds ranging from 50,000 to 65,000 hertz. They have 15 different muscles that enable their ears to move in all directions. So, sounds that are too quiet can also be heard by dogs, unlike humans, which can’t. This sensitivity could also be a reason for the dogs to sense the presence of spirits around them.
2.3 Intuitive Canine Nature
Dogs have an unusually extraordinary sense of perception of their surroundings. Dogs can detect emotions, physiological changes, illness, and environmental events. In many cases, dogs exhibit unusual behaviours before something bad happens.
These pet animals are known to sense specific medical conditions such as seizures and some cancers. Due to their acute hearing, sensitivity to changes in air pressure, and other environmental cues, dogs can predict imminent storms or earthquakes.
In addition to that, dogs are highly attuned to human emotions and can often notice changes in their owners’ emotional stress. They may offer comfort or show signs of distress when their masters are anxious, sad, or not doing okay. I will never forget when my dog comforted me on the first day of college. Well, it’s fair enough why dogs are called loyal companions and a man’s best friend for a reason.
Dogs have an advantage in vision; that is, dogs can see things in the dark, while humans can’t. With dichromatic vision, they can only see blue and yellow. They have larger pupils and more light-sensitive cells in the retina’s centre, making them see things even in dim circumstances. Although, there is still no scientific conclusion on the idea that dogs’ vision can play a role in detecting ghosts.
3. What do Experts Have to Say about Dogs Barking at Nothing?
There are still debates on the issue ‘Are ghosts real or not?’, so the subsidiary debate ‘Can dogs see ghosts?’ is inconclusive. Consequently, scientists claim that the whole subject, ‘Can dogs see ghosts?’ is influenced by you pulling the strings. Yes, if you believe ghosts are real, so does your dog. Your belief is their belief. If you believe in the existence of ghosts, then this will also pave the way for your dogs to believe. If you respond with a hunch, then your dogs will get frightened. In case your reaction is cheerful, your dogs will get happy or zoomies.
Secondly, environmental changes could also be pivotal in your dogs’ behaviour. Due to their keen hearing and smelling senses, even a pin dropping in a quiet room can trigger them drastically.
Last on the list, scientists also cite that the dogs’ abrupt barking at nothing could be due to Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome(CDS). It is mostly seen in old dogs, where they will exhibit disorientation, lack of interaction, anxiety, and many more.
Besides, scientists assert that the reason behind your dogs barking at nothing is surely not because of the presence of the paranormal but because they are in despair.
4. Are you the Believer or the Skeptic?
Believers’ view is solely based on mythological stories about dogs and spirits. On the other hand, sceptics argue that dogs’ behaviour, which they exhibit out of the blue, is due to their heightened sensitivity to their surroundings. No matter who is correct, the mystery of whether dogs see ghosts remains unsolved, and yet the question highlights the intriguing intersection of mythological tales, personal experiences, and scientific evidence.