Study finds that dogs probably can’t predict this natural disaster


Sometimes it seems like dogs have a sixth sense. Have you ever had your dog warn you of danger by barking or growling?

Some people claim that their dog can even tell when a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, is imminent. However, according to a new study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, that’s probably not the case.

Most reports of pets predicting earthquakes are purely anecdotal, and in order for them to be scientifically evaluated they would have to be based on clearly defined rules, such as the animal’s distance from earthquakes of a certain magnitude, whether the behavior has ever been observed and not been followed by an earthquake, and whether the animal is healthy.

In the study, Heiko Woith and colleagues at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences concluded that without the answers to these questions, it’s impossible to systematically analyze the evidence. The researchers studied 729 reports of animal behavior related to 160 earthquakes.



Although future studies must include a stricter, quantitative measure of what constitutes “unusual or abnormal behavior,” the researchers did note that foreshocks and abnormal behavior strongly cluster together, which may indicate that the animals do have an inkling that something is amiss.

“The animals may sense seismic waves . . . generated by foreshocks,” Woith suggested to Science Daily. “Another option could be secondary effects triggered by the foreshocks, like changes in groundwater or release of gases from the ground which might be sensed by the animals.”

Even though there’s currently no evidence that your pooch can predict an earthquake, that doesn’t mean that dogs aren’t perceptive. One study found that dogs are actually good judges of character, and if your dog is snubbing someone, they may have good reason. Dogs are also famous for their superior sense of smell, which can be used to sniff out everything from explosives to drugs — and possibly even cancer.

Animals, Pets, Science & Nature

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About the Author
Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kate's work.

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