Can Dogs Sense Or Predict Earthquakes?

Can Dogs Sense Or Predict Earthquakes?

by Brett Lewis

published September 23, 2020

Many pet owners claim that their dog or cat can sense or predict a change in weather but is it possible for them to predict an earthquake? We take a close look at this question in this research paper, specifically looking at whether or not dogs can sense and predict earthquakes.

Erratic Behavior In Dogs

There are various indications that suggest the possibility that animals, particularly, canines are able to “sense” or detect earthquake activity before its occurrence. Scientists across the world have extensively researched this topic. Many modern skeptics dismiss the idea, claiming that the connection is not strong enough to support scientifically. However, various other scientists claim that animals can use their heightened senses to detect the foreshocks that lead to an earthquake.

One reason that experts support this connection is that animals and dogs will exhibit unusual behavior right before an earthquake strikes.  There are various physical and chemical changes that take place prior to an earthquake. These factors include temperature, electromagnetic wave, sound, the water’s chemical composition, among others.

Scientists claim that dogs, and other animals, are able to detect these changes, using their nerve sensory organs. Consequently, they will react instinctively.

Since most animals have heightened senses, especially when compared to humans, it gives them the ability to detect these changes. For example, snakes and lizards will exit their hibernating caves right before an earthquake. Likewise, dogs will start barking and biting excessively.[1] They will start pacing and acting distressed.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Scientist Stanley Coren, Ph.D., FRSC. was researching whether or not dogs experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. Humans who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, tend to feel depressed and anxious during the winter months or when there is little to no sunlight during the daytime. He researched 200 dogs for a period of eight months, from September to April. Dog owners would have to report their dog’s activity level twice a week. On average, there was little variability from day to day.

However, on February 27, 2001, there was a drastic increase in activity and anxious behavior in these dogs. Interestingly enough, this scientist also captured a 6.8 earthquake that shook the Pacific Northwest.

Based on the changes in the dogs’ behavior, he wondered if the dogs were able to sense that the earthquake was building up. Dr. Coren went as far as to study dogs with different ear shapes as is indicated in his statements found in PsychologyToday.com:

Ear flaps don’t diminish all sounds to the same degree. The effect is greater for the higher frequency sounds. I verified this by putting the ear flap of my beagle between a 90 dB sound source and a sound measuring sensor. For a 1000 Hz tone the sound behind the flap was 6 dB less, while for a high frequency sound of 14000 Hz the ear flap lowered the sound intensity by 31 dB. This result corroborates the suggestion that what the dogs were hearing was an important factor and suggests that it might be high frequency sounds (such as rocks breaking from the strain of earth movements) that are most critical. [2]

Overall, he concluded that these results are suggestive that a dog’s heightened sense of hearing allows them to detect an earthquake due to an increase in “observable activity” 24-hours preceding an earthquake.[2] However, he does mention that one study alone, even with a significant sample size, does not provide enough evidence.

Earthquakes: S & P Waves

An earthquake emits a variety of different waves, including S & P waves. The P waves are the fastest of the two and are the first to arrive from an earthquake. Shear waves, also known as S waves, is where the rock will oscillate in a perpendicular direction from the wave propagation. S waves arrive after the P waves. Surface waves are the slowest and arrive after the L wave.

S & P Waves
image source: USGS.gov [3]

Scientists who believe that there is a correlation between a dog’s erratic behavior prior to an earthquake suggest that a dog is able to sense these waves before an earthquake strikes the earth’s surface. “The animals may sense seismic waves – it could P, S or surface waves – generated by foreshocks,” says Woith.[4]

It should be noted that it is most probable that dogs, and other animals, are simply reacting to the destructive S waves, just before they arrive. Not that they are actually “predicting” an earthquake.

Dog’s Keen Hearing – The Real Reason They Sense An Earthquake?

Since dogs have a heightened sense of hearing, it is suggested that they can hear seismic activity before an earthquake takes place. However, the right conditions must be present for this to occur. An earthquake must produce enough high-frequency sounds that are obviously detectable by a dog with normal hearing.[5] Naturally, these frequencies must occur ahead of the earthquake.

Can Dogs & Animals Be Used As a Reliable Warning System For Pending Earthquakes?

As mentioned above, many scientists hold true to the fact that a dog is able to “detect” an earthquake before it takes place. However, since a dog uses its sense of hearing to detect seismic activity, its hearing abilities must be sensitive enough to higher frequency sounds. Therefore, the conditions must be ideal for a dog to be considered a reliable source for pending earthquakes.

Conclusion

More research is needed to definitively assess whether or not dogs can sense earthquakes preemptively. Although there is evidence that strongly suggests that they are capable of detecting earthquakes, none of the research is conclusive.

References

[1] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/11/1111_031111_earthquakeanimals.html
[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201205/can-dogs-predict-earthquakes
[3] https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/events/1906calif/18april/earthwaves.php
[4] https://www.sciencealert.com/metastudy-evidence-animal-behaviour-relationship-earthquakes
[5] https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/can-dogs-predict-earthquakes/

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