Your Dog’s Secret to Knowing When You’ll Be Home

By Sarah Hinds Friedl on April 23rd, 2020

We all know that dogs have superpowers—super dog hearing, excellent sniffing ability, and of course, superior comforting skills when you’re feeling a little blue. But one of their best tricks? It has to be their knack for somehow knowing when your car is approaching so that they can enthusiastically welcome you home.

How do they do it? Do dogs really have a sixth sense? How else can you explain this daily ritual?

In this article, we’re going to reveal just how far dog senses go when it comes to recognizing cars. It may not be a sixth sense, but the tools that your pupper uses to recognize your car will amaze you all the same!

Let’s start with the star of the show: dog hearing
We all know that dogs have amazing hearing. After all, your dog’s ears are much more powerful than yours, especially when it comes to high pitched sounds. So it’s not too surprising that your dog would be able to hear your car approaching.

But just how good are they?

Well, think about it this way. If you live in a quiet neighborhood, and you drive a car that has a distinctive sound (think squeaky breaks or powerful engine), chances are, everyone in the neighborhood will be able to hear your coming—not just your dog. But, let’s say that you live in a busier area and your car sounds just about the same as any other car on the block. Then, your family members may not know it’s you until you pull into the driveway or garage.

Your dog on the other hand, will probably still be able to pick up on your exciting return, even when you’re far out of range of any humans. Because of their great sense of hearing, it’s likely that your pup can pick up on the nuances of your car’s engine that allows them to differentiate your car from others.

And then, there’s the question of range. How close do you have to be for your dog to start running laps around the house in anticipation? Well, there are a variety of factors at play, here—the ambient noise in your neighborhood, the details of your car engine, and your doggo’s unique abilities.

If you want to test it out for yourself, you can set up an easy experiment. To start, send a message to someone in your home that you’re on the way so that they can observe your pup. As soon as your dog starts to show signs that you’re on their radar—perked up ears, head tilts, enthusiastic tail wagging—have them call you immediately so that you can make note of your location. Try it out a few times – you’ll be amazed at your dog’s car sensing abilities!

Does it all come down to dog hearing? Or are there other senses at work?
While hearing is one of the strongest senses that dogs may use to recognize their owner’s car, it’s not the only one. There are a few more tricks up your pup’s sleeve!

Sight and smell are two additional dog senses that help your furry friend track your car. Upon sight, your doggo will easily be able to pick out your car’s make and model. They may even be able to identify your car’s color if you drive something that stands out in a dog’s vision, like bright blue or yellow. Those visual clues plus your dog’s excellent sense of smell allow them to differentiate your car from a similar-looking one.

Of course, your dog may not be correct 100% of the time! You might have noticed your pupper pulling you to the wrong car in the parking lot, and there even have been stories of doggos jumping into the wrong truck bed! No dog is perfect, and sometimes their excitement gets the better of them!

Car identification goes beyond dog hearing and other senses
So far, it’s pretty clear that dog senses are amazing. But there might be another reason why your pooch waits by the door when you come home—something called time consciousness. It’s the fascinating way that your doggo can tell time, even without being able to read a clock.

Dogs, like many other animals, have a circadian rhythm which tells them when to wake up, when to take their afternoon nap, and when dinner will be served. They’re also able to track the passage of a day with external cues, like the changes in light and temperature. When you throw in more details, your pup can make associations to figure out when you’re likely to come home. For example, maybe you come home during rush hour, and your pooch can hear the traffic building up on the nearby freeway. Or, perhaps you always arrive just after the UPS driver does the daily rounds in your neighborhood. Over time, your doggo will follow a list of cues to pinpoint when you usually arrive. And while we’re still learning about how dogs conceptualize time, it’s pretty clear that your pupper has a special place in their daily schedule to welcome you home.

Our favorite story about dogs recognizing their owner’s car
Here at BreezeGuard, we love to hear stories of dogs recognizing their owner’s car, and one story in particular has really warmed our hearts: the daily celebrations of Opal the deaf and blind pup from Washington.

Despite being unable to hear or see, Opal always knows when her beloved owner is driving down the street towards home. Maybe she relies on her sense of smell, engine vibrations, or time tracking skills—whatever the case, you can see her alertness melt into adorable excitement as soon as she realizes her best friend is home!

Her owners say that Opal only responds to her beloved human’s car, and doesn’t get nearly as excited when a friend or neighbor drives up. It’s obvious that recognizes her owner’s car and can’t contain her excitement!

Do you have a doggo who relies on their incredible dog hearing, smell, or time awareness to know when your car is just around the corner? Share your stories with us!

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