My friend cited a study by Rupert Sheldrake which ran an experiment over several years that video taped dogs, showing that dogs knew when their owner was coming home due to some psychic link. He published a paper called: A Dog That Seems to Know When His Owner Is Coming Home: Videotaped Experiments and Observations.

He seem to be a frequently well references researcher, looking over Google scholar. He even published a book about the results.

Has this been independently verified, do animals have telepathic links with their owners?

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    dogs have excellent hearing. They can hear your car approaching long before a human can. Get a new car, and for a few days they're not going to associate that sound with you...
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 13:51
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    There's a whole bunch of logical and experimental fallacies in his study. Confirmation bias comes to mind. cectic.com/049.html
    – Lagerbaer
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 14:49
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    We showed pretty conclusively that my shepherd simply recognized the sound of my car. The wife said he'd always get up and go to the door just a minute or so before I parked. However... I had the muffler repaired/replaced, and it took him the better part of a week to get used to the new sound!
    – M. Werner
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 14:57
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    Richard Wiseman addressed thishere Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 15:32
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    Why on earth does this have 2 downvotes?
    – Kit Sunde
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 0:26

2 Answers 2


Telepathy is a throughly debunked idea. I'd even say foolish. The reasons this guy's dog knows he's coming home:

  • It happens on a schedule
  • Dogs have excellent hearing
  • Confirmation bias
  • Separation anxiety

That doesn't mean dogs are dumb. They are very smart (and cute). As Neil Degrasse Tyson found out on Nova Science Now. I would bet the owner just got fooled by his dog. Maybe in this case, the dog is smarter than the owner?

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    If you want to debunk something start by understanding the specific of the underlying debate. E.G. what experiment did Rupert Sheldrake conduct? What did Wiseman do? When you evoke hearing on an experiment that controlled against hearing you aren't adding anything to the debate.
    – Christian
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 21:49
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    I actually think this is a decent response.
    – Alain
    Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 16:42
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    Why do you link to an article by Sheldrake himself defending Telepathy against skepticism when claiming that telepathy is thoroughly debunked?
    – Lagerbaer
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 22:31
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    Your references aren't supporting what you are writing, and I think people are just up-voting this because they agree with it. The first reference is in defense of Sheldrake, and makes a case against Dawkins dogmatically blowing him off without arguing on the evidence. The second case just seem to generally be about dogs and seem unrelated. That makes this an unskeptical and poor answer.
    – Kit Sunde
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 18:56
  • @KitSunde Agreed. To Skava: you should quote the references, so that anyone can see easily why are you linking them and how they support your answer.
    – Suma
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 20:22

As the onlookers will see, noone here actually read the papers in question. Here they are:

A Dog That Seems to Know When His Owner Is Coming Home: Videotaped Experiments and Observations : Rupert Sheldrake & Pamela Smart, Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 233–255

CAN ANIMALS DETECT WHEN THEIR OWNERS ARE RETURNING HOME? AN EXPERIMENTAL TEST OF THE ‘PSYCHIC PET’ PHENOMENON : Richard Wiseman, Matthew Smith, Julie Milton, British Journal of Psychology Vol. 89, 1998, p.453-462

The claim is that Jaytee, the terrier of Pam Smart, is able to detect when owner Pamela Smart is on her return journey by waiting in his porch.

  • "It happens on a schedule": Both experimenters started on an random timepoint unknown to the ower Pam Smart. Ruled out.
  • "Dogs have excellent hearing": Both experimentersstarted the journey at least 13 minutes apart and used different, non-identifiable means of transportation (bike, taxi, experimenter car) Ruled out.
  • "Confirmation bias": Both experimenters videotaped the dog and tabulated the occurences of the porch with an observer who did not know the return time. Ruled out.
  • "Separation anxiety": Both authors took precautions to record how Jaytee behaves and if it is normal. Was taken care of and is therefore irrelevant.

What Sheldrake did:

Sheldrake recorded ca. 100 experiments, 12 under controlled conditions above, 10 control experiments and the rest under more natural conditions. Before the videotaped sessions, they analyzed written data recorded by Pam Smart over longer timeperiods.

Sheldrake tabulated Jaytees position and used two statistical methods. Sheldrake's main method divided the data in three categories, return period (Pam is on the way home), prereturn period (10 minutes before departure) and main period (all else). Jaytee was according to Sheldrake 55% the time at the window at the return period, 23% at the prereturn period and 4% average for the same 10 minute period at the main period. (The main period is much longer than return/prereturn so the missing 22% indicates that the main period was in average nearly 5 times longer ~ 50 min). Sheldrake used the repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) and a paired-sample t-test to test if the differences were significant and they were according to Sheldrake highly significant (p < 0.0001, p. 239). The increased percentage of time was statistically significant for the prereturn period (p = 0.04) and highly significant for the difference between prereturn and return (p = 0.0009).

What Wiseman did:

Wiseman did 4 experiments. They divided the experiment time into 10 minute time blocks, Jaytee is only counted as success if

a) Jaytee goes to his porch only 10 minutes after the return signal.
b) Jaytee goes to his porch the first time for no apparent reason (must be decided by a judge).
c) In three cases, Jaytee must remain for at least 2 minutes.

  1. Leaving time: 21:00. Jaytee remains 53 seconds on 19:57, 134 seconds on 20:09 and over 600 seconds between 20:58 and 21:04 because a car pulls up. Fail. c) is introduced.
  2. Leaving time: 14:18.Jaytee remains 140 seconds on 13:59, and 169 seconds because the fish delivery van comes up. Fail.
  3. Leaving time: 21:39. Jaytee remains 1233 seconds after 21:31, but as this is too soon, it counts as fail.
  4. Leaving time: 10:45. Jaytee goes at 10:44, but as the terrier needs to vomit, he must leave the porch. Fail.

I leave it to the reader to decide it for themselves because I think it is such an extremely charged issue.

  • You misrepresent the 4% number, it means something different. And you completely ignored Richard Wiseman’s analysis of the results. Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 20:13
  • Please read Sheldrakes PDF. No fear, it is neither poisonous nor contagious. He explains in detail what he has done.
    – user13486
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 20:14
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    My comment was referring to your answer not Sheldrake’s paper. But of course Sheldrake’s analysis is flawed as well. He simply discards half the experiments. That invalidates the assumptions of a t-test. Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 20:17
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    Konrad, you evidently did not read beforehand Sheldrake because you have not corrected the misconceptions in Skavas answer and you did not find the 4% figure. Still you said it is flawed. And I sincerely doubt that you are able to read the paper in less than 4 minutes you fired your comments out. Again: please read the paper, make notices, build your argumentation and then comment.
    – user13486
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 20:27
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    Skava’s answer is old and I agree that it’s flawed. But others have pointed out the problems already, why should I do so again? Your answer on the other hand is new, pretty complete, but has some obvious flaws so I point these out. You are also assuming that I hadn’t read Sheldrake’s paper before (which, as it happens, is correct – I’m doing that now and getting dumber by the minute; but finding the context of the 4% figure was easy). Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 20:32

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