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This Month: When a Pomeranian Reacts to Unseen Things
Overview

This sort of thing is much more common than you may expect. We are near constantly receiving emails from owners who are concerned about their Pomeranian's behavior in regard to responding in some way to something unseen by the owner. 

So, let us preface this now by assuring you that while this can be unsettling at first and you may be concerned (or even a bit uneasy), many Poms (and dogs in general) do this sort of thing. This page will dive into what may be happening. 
The Biggest Worries of Owners

There are two main worries that owners have when a Pom keeps doing this. 

1) The first, and by far the most common, is that the dog is responding to something paranormal. While some owners come right out and ask and others carefully skirt around the question, it's hard to not have this at least in the corner of your mind. Is the dog seeing a spirit or something out of this realm? If such things exist. 

2) The other, though less typical guesses or concerns, is health related. Owners ask if the Pom could be having cognitive issues related to age or is having some sort of health issue of mini or partial seizures or the like. 

Examples of Behavior

As we said, if your Pom is reacting to something invisible or unseen by you, you are not alone. Here are some excerpts from emails we've received just over the past 6 months (edited for clarity and typos):

My 4 year old Pomeranian is suddenly afraid to go near the outer corner of my living room. It's a spot she used to always play in. She acts like there's something scary there. But it's empty. Is she seeing a ghost? 

My Pom, a 6 month old male, is all of a sudden hesitant to enter my downstairs bathroom. It's almost like he's seeing something that I'm not. He stretches out, stares intently and refuses to go in.  What could be causing this? 
Ever since we moved into our new home 5 months ago, my Pomeranian (four years old, female) sits in place and barks at the wall in my bedroom. It's an outside wall, so there's nothing on the other side of it. She is on edge and frankly it's making me on edge. She is without doubt seeing something there. Can dogs sense spirits or paranormal things? I'm actually thinking about moving. 

My Pom, Belle May, has starting acting really odd. She sniffs behind my sofa and starts barking. Like she wants me to see something. But, I look, and trust me I've moved the sofa, searched every inch, there's nothing there. What is she trying to tell me?

My Pomeranian, a 7 year sable male, keeps following something with his eyes. But there's nothing. It's not a bug or insect or anything like that. It's as if he's responding to some thing or sound that I don't see or here. Could this be the start of a cognitive problem? 
tiny-pomeranian
Photo courtesy of Veronika J Uricko
My Pomeranian walks around this certain spot in my hallway of the house she completely clings to the other side of the wall in the hallway. Any answers why Sammie would do that? It's like if there is a presence there.

Once the lights are dimmed for the night and we're all relaxing and watching TV, my Pom Charles acts as if he's afraid. He actually starts to shake a bit and whines to be picked up. Once we hold him, he'll keep looking towards the foyer as if he sees someone there. We've tried to address any issues, needing water, being cold, bathroom needs etc.  He's been doing this every night for over two weeks and it's starting to sketch out out. Any ideas?

This is just a sampling of messages that we've gotten, so that you can have an idea of what is happening before we move forward. Essentially, this info will be for you if your Pom acts like he sees something that is invisible or responds to things that are not there. 
Pomeranian on lap
Peaches, at 4 and 1/2 months old
Photo courtesy of Uma Saravanan
So, Could These Poms Be Sensing Spirits or Something Paranormal? 

Of course, no one can say with certainly if canines can sense spirits, if such things exist, or if they can see or hear paranormal elements. One would assume that the more a person believes in these things themselves, the more apt they would be to also think that their dog is picking something up.

This is not to say that dogs do not have a sixth sense (more ahead).

In regard to what people believe about ghosts and the paranormal, a little less than half of Americans 42%, believe in spirits and a bit more than half, 52% of those in the UK hold this belief.

However, whether you do, do not or are not sure, what a Pom is responding to, most likely, has nothing at all to do with this. There are far more likely - and proven - elements that can cause a dog to respond to things unseen by us humans. 
The Real Sixth Senses that Dogs Have

While your Pom mainly sees and hears what you do, he also sees, hears and feels much more. Canines are continually receiving and processing an amazing amount of sensory input. 

There are several notable sensory perceptions that dogs have:

1) They sense changes in air pressure. Canines sense barometric pressure change. 
They can also feel and any shift in the static electric field. This is one reason why many dogs have trouble with tolerating thunder and lightening and also why many dogs (and many animals in general) can sense when a rain storm, snow storm or bad weather is brewing. 

2) They sense the Earth's magnetic field. Amazing, but true. In studies, if dogs are left to act on their own freewill and not interrupted, the majority of them will align themselves from north to south when urinating. This goes for both males and females
3) Sensing the human condition. So much more study needs to be done in this regard. However, dogs have been shown to be able to detect cancer in people, are able to alert owners when a seizure is about to occur and have even been known to be aware of when a woman is about to go into labor. It is thought that this is done entirely by smell, however some sources add that there may be sixth sense that we do not yet understand. 

Dogs have also been shown to know when their owner is coming home (even when that time is varied) and canines are superb in reading their human's facial expression and feeling their general vibe (your Pom is decidedly aware of your moods and may mimic them). 
One of the best leave-in spritzes for Poms; keeps the coat tangle free, protected and healthy
Not to Mention Impeccable 'Regular' Senses

You may have a general sense of how well dogs can hear and smell, however you may not realize how this relates to your Pom's behavior in your home. 

What you see and hear while in your house is a tiny fraction of what your Pom is picking up.

In regard to hearing - Dogs hear double the amount of frequencies that we do. So, even if you have perfect hearing, your Pom will always be able to hear things that you literally cannot. Our range is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, their range is 67 Hz to 45 kHz. 

In addition, dogs can hear 4 times the distance that we can. Any sound that you would pick up from a 20-foot distance, your Pom can hear at a 80-foot distance.

For just this reason alone, a Pom will be responding to things that from your point of view, do not exist. 
In regard to scent- Us humans often do not think too much about the sense of smell, unless dinner is cooking or there is something questionable that we think we may be smelling. But, to a dog, what they hear helps define their world. 

Canines are designed to process smells far better than us. We have a measly 6 million olfactory receptors in our noses, but dogs - on average - have 225 million (scent hounds have up to 300 million). Add to this, the fact that the canine brain processes smell with much better efficiency. Proportionately speaking, the area of the brain that is devoted to smells is 40 times larger in dogs.

This is why a male Pomeranian can smell a female in heat from up to 3 miles away. It's how two dogs that are meeting can exchange information by sniffing each other's scent glands (anal glands) and why dogs can smell everything from whale feces to firearms to drugs. 
What Poms Are, Most Likely, Reacting To

The thing to keep in mind, is that if you are home and your Pom is seemingly looking at something, seems afraid of a spot where there is nothing or is barking at something invisible, that the walls in your house - to your Pom's perception in regard to hearing and smell - do not exist.

In other words, any noise or smell from the other side of that wall may be being picked up on. 

For this reason, the list of things that a dog may be hearing or sensing is limited only by the number of elements within at least a 1 mile radius of your home. 

And for some noises, much further than that. 

Some of the more common things that dogs respond to, bark at or seemingly stare at (they will stare at the direction of a noise, regardless if the element can be seen) include: 
Pom at the beach
Buster, at 9, Photo courtesy of Alejandro
Critters - This is always a top possibility. This includes any sort of wildlife that could be on, in or near your home. Some may be on the roof, others (sorry!) in the walls and some right outside in a tree or other area close the house. Squirrels, chipmunk, mice, raccoon, birds, bats.. these are all reasons that a dog will act oddly, either in a defensive positioning or trying to alert you. 

High pitched noises - Far out of your ability to hear it, dogs can pick up on such sounds as alarms and sirens from quite a distance. This includes home and car alarms and emergency vehicles. 

Radio & other frequencies - There are anecdotal reports of dogs being irritated by all sorts of things; this includes cable wires, neon lights, baby monitors, intercom systems and security systems. 

Neighborhood noises - What may seem like background noise that you've learned to ignore or sounds that simply do not register to your human ears, can make a dog stand on guard, act wary or try to alert you. This includes everything from car doors slamming, the beep of a car being locked, children playing and of course, other dogs barking or howling. 
Our fav shampoo. For a super awesome clean that keeps fur healthy, not weighed down & smells wonderful. 
How to React if Your Pom is Responding to Something Unseen

Do remember that dogs are incredible at understanding the mood and vibe of their human. So, if you act alarmed, this brings up the level of alert in your dog. If you feel calm, this helps to bring down a hyper dog.

The best way to respond to your Pom acting bothered by something is to 1) acknowledge it. For many dogs, reaction to something only lasts as long as it takes for them to to know that they have successfully alerted their human. Just an "Okay" from you will let your Pom know that you understand he's trying to say 'Hey, I hear/smell something!"

2) Divert his attention. Once he knows that you know that he is picking up on something (and you do not need to know what it is.. sound, scent, no matter), bring your Pom to another area and introduce an element that teaches him that it's okay to ignore the trigger.

Asking him to follow a command so that a treat can be given as reward or encouraging play with a fun toy are two good choices. 
Cognitive Issues - Many owners of Poms that are close to becoming or are seniors, worry that strange behavior may correlate to the beginnings of canine cognitive disorder (the canine equivalent of dementia in humans). And this is indeed a valid concern. Beginning signs may appear around the 11 year mark (about 50% of dogs this age have signs of CCD) and is most prevalent with senior dogs age 15+. 

If your Pom is approaching his senior years, it is wise to have him evaluated for any sort of change in behavior.  Signs of CCD include: confusion, irritability, lethargy, a decreased desire to engage in activities previously enjoyed, decreased appetite, forgetting housebreaking rules and/or changes in sleeping pattern.

There are medications that can help with CCD, so if this is suspected, do have your Pom checked out. This said, only the symptom of barking at nothing or seemingly seeing something is not indicative of CCD. 
What About Seizures?

As stated earlier, it is not uncommon for owners to be concerned about this, particularly if a Pomeranian barks over and over or had a trace-like behavior. Epilepsy, though possible, is rare and does not really fit the sort of behavior that we are discussing here. 

There are many types of seizures and not all dogs are affected in the same way.  With psychomotor seizures a dog may snap at the air or bark repeatedly. This may appear to be on a loop, as if the dog was recorded on video and it kept playing over and over. 

If your Pom's behavior seems to point to this as a concern, of course a veterinary visit is needed for a complete physical and neurological exam. Record the event so the vet can see what is happening. 

While it is unknown exactly what triggers seizures, it is thought that excitability plays a role. There are treatment options, with phenobarbital and potassium bromide (KBr) being the most commonly used prescribed medications. 
Our very favorite paw wax. To protect a Pom's paws from hot surfaces in the summer... & protect from 'snowballing' and freezing surfaces in the winter.
A final word –We may never truly understand or comprehend all that our Poms sense.  If you combine magnetic forces, air pressure changes, smell and hearing, there's a whole world that dogs are aware of that is out of our reach. 

The important take-way is to bring your Pom to the vet if you suspect a health issue and if not, to remain calm and acknowledge your Pom so that he knows you are with him, even if you have no idea what's he's reacting to. Often an 'okay', and redirection is all that is needed to get his mind on something else. 
Have you checked out the Pom polls?

Have fun seeing how your Pom & your thoughts about your Pom compare to others in the Pomeranian Owner Poll.
Did you catch last few blog topics?
Questions About Bringing a Pom Outside - What age a puppy can go out, how to help a Pom that's afraid of certain weather conditions, dangers you might not be aware of, and much more. 
Choosing Snacks for a Pomeranian - Covers your best options for homemade treats, store-bought and specialty treats.
Things Poms Love - The top 10 things that every Pomeranian loves to have.
Pomeranian Care Tips - The top 10 tips for taking excellent care of a Pom of any age.
Pomeranian Nose Colors - A fun and informative look at all the possible nose colors of the Pom. Lots of photos.
Pomeranian Humping Issues - From puppies to older dogs, both males and females, read why dogs hump and what you can do to stop out-of-control humping behavior. 
Pomeranian Eye Color - A detailed & fun look (with lots of cute photos) regarding all possible eye colors found with the Pomeranian breed. Those accepted by the AKC and those that are not. 
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