Can Dogs Sense Earthquakes

Can Dogs Sense Earthquakes

Author WDF Staff


If you live in an area where earthquakes are common and have a dog, you probably noticed they start acting strangely before an earthquake happens. That behavior raised many questions in the dog owner community, and the most important one is, “Can dogs sense earthquakes?” More precisely, the question should be whether dogs can sense earthquakes before they happen.

There is no denying they feel something before we do. Is it some superhuman ability, or is it simply their keen senses? Dogs have abilities that are really close to being superhuman. Still, science would argue that there is nothing superhuman (or superdog) about our furry friend’s behavior before an earthquake. Here are a few things that might help clear the air.

Can dogs sense earthquakes?

The first question would be, “Can dogs sense earthquakes?” The answer is pretty simple - yes. Dogs can feel earthquakes the same as we can. They will feel the trembling of the ground and hear the horrible noise that comes within it. In fact, dogs can get pretty scared, and if you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you should know how to calm your dog down. You can read more about it here - How to help your dog in case of an earthquake.

chocolate lab

Can they sense an earthquake is coming?

The more important question is whether dogs can actually sense when the earthquake is about to happen. Technically, no. It is probably better to say, dogs can’t feel impending earthquakes, as far as we know. However, if that is a fact, that still doesn’t clear up the air, right? Well, the thing that would explain it is that dogs feel earthquakes before we do.

Dogs have some senses that are a lot more sensitive than ours. For example, a Bloodhound’s sense of smell is at least 1.000 times stronger than ours. Dogs can smell things we simply aren’t equipped to smell. That is why many dogs are used as trackers. A dog sight is weaker than ours. We can see more colors, but they see better than we do at night. The main sense that allows dogs to detect or sense earthquakes before we do is their hearing.

Dogs can hear earthquakes

This is the main reason dogs can feel an earthquake coming before we do. This doesn’t mean dogs can hear them when everything starts shaking. This actually means dogs will hear the rumble that comes before an earthquake before we do. That shouldn’t be too surprising since their hearing is better than ours. Not only is it more sensitive, but they can hear frequencies we can’t.

Dogs can hear 47.000 - 65.000 Hz, and adult humans can only hear sounds up to 20.000 Hz. However, the main difference is the ear sensitivity. Dogs can hear sounds far softer and quieter, which means they can hear the earthquake before we can. Since that sound is not something they’re familiar with, they will start panicking.

earthquake damage

The P wave theory

The second possible explanation of why dogs feel earthquakes before we do is that they feel P waves. When an earthquake happens, it sends two types of waves - P waves and S waves. The P waves come first, and they are shorter and a lot harder to detect than S waves. S waves are the ones that cause the massive ground shaking which we feel.

Since dogs have more delicate senses than we do, it is entirely possible they feel the weaker waves as well. They have their sensitive paws right on the ground, and it is entirely possible they can feel it happening before we do.

Dr. Coren’s research regarding dogs and earthquakes

The most interesting study about this topic was done by Dr. Stanley Coren. He was testing whether dogs could have Seasonal Affective Disorder when a 6.8 earthquake hit the Pacific Northwest. He accidentally gathered a vast amount of data on 200 dogs’ behavior a few hours before the earthquake hit.

He noticed some interesting changes in their behavior. Out of 200 dogs, 14 of them had hearing impairments, and 13 showed no significant changes in their behavior. Out of all other dogs in the study, 49% showed signs of distress, higher activity, and anxiety even 24 hours before the earthquake.

weimaraner on forrest floor

Dr. Coren presented a theory that dogs could hear seismic activity that happens before the actual earthquake. Right before an earthquake occurs, there are many smaller cracks and movements in the tectonic plates. Dogs with their sensitive ears could potentially hear them and start showing signs of anxiety.

So, can dogs know when an earthquake will happen?

There is actual scientific and anecdotal evidence that would support the theory dogs can feel an earthquake is about to happen. However, there is no way they can tell us that. Different reasons can cause dogs to become anxious, and they can happen far more often than an earthquake.

Our best chance is to get to really know our dog. If you know how your dog usually behaves and what might trigger their anxiety, you might be able to predict something bad is about to happen. However, you can learn that by studying your dog’s body language and signs. This is very individual, and some owners might do that better than others. Even if something like that happens, we would primarily think about our dog’s health and behavioral issues. An earthquake would probably be one of the last things on our minds.

World Dog Finder team

World Dog Finder Logo