Is your dog staring and barking at seemingly nothing because there's a ghost? Or is there some other explanation? We spoke with experts on the spooky subject.

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Have you awoken to the startling sound of your dog insisting he's detected a threat in the middle of the night, only for you to discover nothing is there? Ruh-roh!

Whether you've personally experienced your dog act out of the ordinary in what's believed to be a haunted place or have heard terrifying tales from fellow pet parents, it can be unsettling to think about potentially living with a ghost. (Unless it's Casper, of course.)

As you speed walk down your dark hallway, you may wonder, can dogs see ghosts?

The short answer: It depends on what you believe. Our dogs' unusual behavior can spook us in certain circumstances. However, it's important to note some sixth sense-like dog behaviors can be explained.

closeup of a golden retriever's eye looking for a ghost
Credit: Jessica Trinh / Getty

Do Dogs Really See Ghosts or Spirits?

A family moves into a new home. Weird things start happening in the home. The humans don't quite notice the strange occurrences just yet, but their beloved pup tries to alert them that something spooky is afoot with a bark or growl. Spoiler alert: The house is haunted, and it's time to skedaddle!

Now, is this just a horror movie trope, or is there some truth to these happenings?

According to YouGov's 2019 poll, more than four in 10 Americans believe paranormal entities like ghosts, demons, and other supernatural beings exist. Over one-third said they have first-hand experience feeling the presence of a spirit or ghost. Jinkies!

With that in mind, is it possible our canine companions can see or feel the supernatural, too?

"Certain behaviors suggest that they [dogs] could sense paranormal activity and ghosts," says Sarah-Jane White, animal behaviorist, trainer, and enrichment expert at Ruffle Snuffle. "Even though many people say they've seen evidence of this, there haven't been any scientific studies done yet to back it up."

Although there's a lack of scientific evidence on dogs and ghosts, there are plausible explanations for these certain behaviors.

One of them, sadly, is a degenerative disorder in aging dogs known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or "sundowner syndrome." Signs of dementia in dogs can include unexplained barking, restlessness, disorientation, anxiety, and sleep changes.

"Sundowner syndrome may be making some dogs bark randomly, but I've heard compelling stories of dogs that bark into an apparently empty space at coincidentally paranormal moments, yet would not have been suffering from sundowner's. So, how do we explain that?" White says. "It's hard for me to say if it's true or not just based on so few reports, but we can speculate that this is probably not true."

Other potential reasons could be attributed to their incredible senses. It's quite possible they, for example, heard neighbors walking and talking along the sidewalk, saw a quick reflection of a car's headlights, or caught the scent of a cute critter in the backyard. Or, perhaps your pup senses you're feeling spooked and can't help but feel the same!

(We know these explanations might not be as exciting as ghosts, but at least you'll sleep better, right?)

Can Dogs See Things Humans Can't See?

Dogs are amazing furry beings (obviously). There's plenty they can do that we humans aren't capable of, which is what makes them all the more fascinating and lovable.

This includes seeing things we can't, all thanks to their wide peripheral vision and night vision.

Does that mean seeing ghosts or spirits? That's up to you to decide.

"There's a lot of evidence showing that dogs have better senses than humans do, and it's possible they might be able to see and perceive things we can't," White says. "When compared with humans, dogs have much better eyesight and sense of smell. They are also able to hear frequencies that humans are not able to hear. The idea that dogs can see things that people can't is probably just a myth, though it's possible they could detect ghosts or spirits if they were there."

So, whether you believe ghosts are real or not, it's safe to say your good boy or good girl would let you know if they came across one.

How Dogs' Senses Differ From Humans'

Humans and dogs share the same five senses: sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell. However, dogs' extraordinarily heightened senses, combined with their loyalty, is what makes them such ideal hiking buddies, hunters, service and therapy dogs, K-9 officers, and lifelong companions.

"They [dogs] can hear about four times what we can and smell up to 10,000 times better than human beings. Dogs are also experts at detecting energy shifts in their human family members and are wonderful at deciphering our different emotions," says Jen Jones, dog expert and founder of Your Dog Advisor. "Many dogs have such keen senses that they can even sniff out cancer or predict when a seizure is about to happen. So, it wouldn't surprise me if there were ghosts to be seen that dogs would be able to see them."