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What Do Dogs Do When They Sense Danger?

A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Published on
Wednesday 13 July 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
What Do Dogs Do When They Sense Danger?
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Dogs’ senses are much more developed than humans. This is why they are able to sense shifts in patterns and impending dangers. But what do dogs do when they sense danger? How can you understand that your dog has sensed danger? 

Dogs respond in different ways depending on the nature of the hazard. Read on to know about these responses.

What Do Dogs Do When They Sense Danger?

Dogs can often sense dangers much before humans. This is a unique trait that humans can learn to use for their protection from things like natural disasters, medical conditions, storms, earthquakes, intruders, and more.

We just need to learn to understand dogs’ responses to these events and interpret what the responses mean. Here are a few common ways in which dogs respond to danger.


Not all dogs are guard dogs or as brave. Some dogs have a gentler temperament and may also be a bit scared when they sense danger. 

If they do sense something that is potentially dangerous, they will hide. If you find your dog crouching under the bed or behind cushions, you should check it out.


Some dogs can become anxious or hyperactive when they sense danger. They will jump around and climb furniture, and ignore your commands.

If you have trained your dog not to behave like this, check their hyperactivity. Your dog may be trying to alert you of danger.


Dogs often communicate by howling. They might howl when distressed, sick, or uncomfortable in certain situations. If you find your dog howling, try to understand what might be the reason.

Dogs might howl to alert you. They might also howl to get your attention when they are not feeling well.


Your dog might be shaking due to various reasons. While sometimes it is just to dry off or in excitement, other times it can be for causes that are quite concerning. For example, dogs often shake when stressed or anxious, which can happen if they sense danger.

Persistent Barking

Barking is a very common response in dogs when they sense danger. For example, if your dog senses that an intruder is approaching, it will start barking loudly. 

This is to alert you about the unknown person entering what your dog considers to be its own territory. It is also to intimidate the intruder.


Much like howling, whining too is a form of communication. While your dog may whine due to several reasons like excitement, or as a way of greeting. But it can also be to get your attention or when anxious. Whining is also a response to danger.


Similar to hiding, some dogs may try escaping when they sense danger. This is often the case if your dog senses a natural disaster like a thunderstorm. You will find that your dog is trying to escape a room from windows or any open space. However, sometimes natural disasters can be severe. 


When dogs sense danger, they might become anxious, scared, and stressed. Burrowing is a response to all of that. Dogs dig to get some semblance of comfort. Burrowing soothes dogs.


You may have noticed your dog growling at certain people who are not good or are aggressive. 

Can dogs sense when someone is dangerous? It depends on the type of the growl. Stress growls mean that your dog is giving a warning and something or someone may be dangerous.


Dogs that are able to sense danger are usually extremely protective of their owners. If they sense dangers like intruders or natural disasters, they may stand guard and not leave your side till the danger has passed. They may also smell your fear or other emotions. While guarding, your dog may also start growling or barking.

Why Can Dogs Sense Danger?

How do dogs sense danger? The exact reasons for dogs being able to understand when something or someone is dangerous are still not known. However, what comes close to an answer is that dogs have better sense than humans.

Dogs have domesticated a few thousand years ago. But before that, they had millions of years of evolution to hone their survival instincts like other wild animals. These instincts remain with dogs even today.

Dogs also evolved strong auditory and olfactory systems. These allow them to hear and smell better than humans. This helps them detect what humans cannot. A dog can easily hear frequencies up to 60 Hz while humans can hear only up to 20 Hz. Dogs also see differently than humans and can even see things at night.

Apart from having better senses, many wonder if dogs have a sixth sense, or what we consider to be “gut feeling”. This has been subject to much speculation but so far, there is no proof for it.

How Do Dogs Sense Danger

Dogs can sense danger through receptors on different parts of their body. They use their keen sense of smell, hearing, taste, sight, and sometimes touch to figure out dangers. If your dog senses a medical condition, it might try licking.

They will lick their paws and other parts more than usual. This might be a sign of low blood sugar or even seizures. A dog’s nose has many olfactory receptors that heighten its sense of smell. Your dog may sniff at you or others to understand if something is wrong. 

Dogs can also detect dangers by hearing what humans may not be able to. Dogs are able to see at night and thus, might be able to see what you cannot. Dogs might also touch objects or you to see if it feels the same as before.  

How To Train Your Dog To Sense Danger

Since dogs rely on their senses to detect danger, it is important to allow them to hone those senses. So the training that you provide needs to focus on how dogs can use their senses and respond to situations. This is similar to the training provided to protect dogs that can sense danger easily.

Security or protection dogs trained for specific police squads undergo obedience training. They are exposed to situations in controlled environments. This is how they develop their instincts and learn to respond to complex commands. For example, security dogs are trained to sniff out bombs. They can also detect where someone may be by following their scent. 

While your dog may not become as advanced as a protection dog, it will become more alert with training at home. One of the easiest ways to do that is by taking them on walks. When out in nature, your dog can roam around, sniff, and use all other senses. This will enrich their instincts. You can also take them to training sessions after consulting with your vet.

Here are a few forms of training that you should give to your dog to train them for protection:

  • Obedience training (to understand your commands)
  • Socialization (To help them understand what things and people to not fear)
  • Barking on command (to alert others of danger)
  • Defense training (where you encourage your dog to bark at a friend and they run away scared, making the dog more confident)
  • Attack training (to attack command)
  • Backing off (to back down on command)

What Forms of Danger Can Dogs Sense?

Dogs can sense a few forms of medical disorders such as cancer, changes in weather and unexpected storms, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, and of course intruders and burglars. Let’s look at some of these things more closely:

Natural Disasters

While there is no scientific evidence for it, dogs might be able to sense natural disasters. Dogs can detect disasters such as earthquakes. Before such a disaster occurs, they may appear to be hyperactive or tense and anxious. 

These might all be warning signs. Your dog might whine or try to hide. If you notice this is happening, check the conditions around your house. Also, check the weather reports, and monitor their behavior till it becomes normal.

Medical Conditions

Dogs are able to sense certain diseases. Research has found that dogs are capable of detecting cancer even at its earliest stage. Dogs might sniff or lick a part to show that there is something wrong. 

For example, dogs may be able to differentiate between normal and malignant tissue. They will lick that area to alert their owners. Dogs are also able to sniff out other changes in the body even before you realize that there are symptoms. 


Can dogs sense intruders as well? Yes, they can. This is because they are able to hear and smell intruders even when they are not very close. Most dogs will bark or growl at intruders. Others might stand alert and wait till they are sure. However, they will most certainly be able to understand if there is a stranger in their territory. 

Some believe that dogs can judge the character of a person. Now, this is still a topic of research and there is no actual evidence. However, dogs do have the sense to detect an intruder.

Change in Weather

When the weather is changing, dogs can sometimes detect it. They can sense changes in electrostatic forces when there is lightning or changes in atmospheric pressure. Some believe that dogs can even hear low rumbling sounds before a storm approaches. If you notice that your dog is showing any signs of the weather changing, stay alert. Try to find out if there are any causes or consequences of the change.

So what do dogs do when they sense danger? They might hide, show hyperactivity, make growling or whining noises, and show other abnormal behavior. You should remember to trust their instincts and investigate when they show these signs.

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