Your dog knows when you are coming home
The strange bond between dogs and their owners
Some dogs seem to know exactly when their owners are coming home.
It may be because their bond is particularly profound, but how could it work?
Why not try a simple experiment to find out?
Mr. and Mrs. A live with their dog Taro. All day long Taro stays quiet in his corner of the living room, but when he suddenly gets up and moves towards the front door, Mrs. A, who is a housewife, knows it’s time to start preparing dinner. About 30 minutes later, her husband opens the door and is greeted by a happy Taro wagging his tail. And dinner is just ready.
The interesting thing is that Mr. A’s working hours vary every day, so it’s not the case that Taro always gets up and moves to the front door at the same time. But how could Taro possibly know when Mr. A will be coming home? Perhaps if you also have a dog, you’re nodding your head right now and saying “yes, yes, our dog does that too!” While some dogs behave like Taro, others get restless as the time of their owner’s homecoming approaches. But how do they sense this? Could it have something to do with their sense of smell or their hearing, both of which are many magnitudes sharper than those of humans? Or is it something completely different?
The British scientist Rupert Sheldrake has devised a simple experiment to test the mysterious abilities of such animals. Both the person who goes out and the person who stays at home have to collaborate by observing their pet the whole day and making notes about its behavior, as well as where the owner has gone, what time and by what route he or she sets out for home, and what time he or she gets back home. Piece of cake!
According to the data that Professor Sheldrake has gathered, about 50% of the observed dogs displayed some kind of “anticipatory behavior” just before their owner came home. In his book, Dogs that Know When their Owners are Coming Home, he describes the case of a British woman named Pamela Smart and her dog Shady.
When Pamela goes to work, she leaves Shady with her parents, who live next door. They noticed that Shady would always move to the window about 45 minutes before Pamela got home, but as she came home at the same time every day, they thought it was just an ordinary habit of his. But then Pamela lost her job and although neither she herself nor her parents knew when she would be coming home each day, Shady showed exactly when to expect her.
Professor Sheldrake took great interest in this case and set up an experiment using two video cameras: one to follow Shady’s movements during the day, and one to follow Pamela while she was out. It turned out that even though her hours were highly irregular, Shady was able to predict them precisely. The fascinating thing was that the very moment she decided to go home and started moving towards the taxi stand, was also the time when Shady would get up from his place at her parents’ house and move to the window. What could this possibly mean?
If you’re curious, why not try this experiment with your own dog?