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My friends have told me stories wherein their dog was able to sniff someone out. For instance, one of my friends used to date this guy that she met from a real singles tour and had him over frequently at her apartment. Her dog used to behave really strangely towards him, like barking, growling, and generally showing aggressive behavior. Now, that dog is usually very sweet and friendly, so it was really weird.

Later on, my friend found out that guy actually lied to her about his age, job, and everything about his background. So I was wondering, do dogs really have intuition? Has anyone of you ever had a dog that acted strangely around a person you know, only to find out later on that their intuition was right about that person all along?
 

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Pepper generally loves all people and is usually overly-excited by anyone new. However, there have been a few people we've encountered who she just did not trust. Nothing has ever been proven, but I tend to trust her judgement. I think they can sense if someone is untrustworthy. On the other hand, it could just be that the person doesn't like dogs or is maybe afraid of dogs. I believe they can sense the emotions coming from a person, but might not always interpret them correctly.

My other dog Kane is distrustful of EVERYONE he doesn't know. But even with him I can tell if someone is afraid of dogs or doesn't like dogs because Kane will react even worse toward those people (which isn't helpful at all).
 

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First off, welcome! What an interesting question you pose. With all the stories of dogs who sense things about people that their owners couldn’t, it’s really no wonder the belief that dogs have a “sixth sense” is so popular! Onto the question though, do dogs have intuition? First, one should break down what intuition means:


in·tu·i·tion
ˌint(y)o͞oˈiSH(ə)n/Submit
noun
the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.
"we shall allow our intuition to guide us"
synonyms: instinct, intuitiveness; More
a thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.


Given the definition of the word- you are essentially asking if a dog can instinctually tell someone is a bad person. The answer to this is both yes and no. No, dogs cannot tell if someone is a bad person. What makes someone “bad” is entirely subjective. All of what you mentioned about that man may be bad to one person, but not to another. Furthermore, it most certainly wasn’t bad to a dog, who cannot even begin to comprehend what those things are. So no, the dog did not know this person was not to be trusted. The dog had absolutely no comprehension of this frankly.
However, at the same time, the dog did know. Not for the reasons we imagine though. Dogs are quite good at smelling hormones, pheromones, and chemicals in our body. This man could well have had an excess amount of cortisol, or adrenaline, coursing through his body. It is absolutely plausible he sensed this, and distrusted the man. However, one must also understand, the dog could distrust a very kind and caring person who is uncomfortable around dogs exactly the same as this bad man. It’s all about how they read us, and what emotions they can smell from us. The dog could run into a psychopathic serial killer, but not think twice about trusting them if they have a very calm and collected demeanor.
Even more interesting however, is that this behavior is not exclusive to dogs! Many animals, including us humans, have the ability to tell when someone is not to be trusted. Dogs may have an upper hand given their sense of smell, which means they can smell any hormones that are driving that person’s behavior. On the other hand, we are sight animals, meaning that we can tell by watching a person’s behavior primarily (though dogs are not exempt from this method as well. However, dogs do not exactly have an innate sense of what is “normal human behavior”, while us humans do. What human behavior may seem “off” to one dog, may be normal to another. This is yet another reason their intuition isn’t exactly reliable). Have you ever talked to someone and felt they were “off” but couldn’t quite figure out why? Well, chances are, you may have just met someone is off! Statistically, you will meet/be in the general area of 36 murderers in your lifetime. Who’s to say that totally creepy guy you just talked to, wasn’t one?

To summarize, dogs can’t tell if someone is bad or not. Not even us humans can decide what makes someone bad; what’s bad to one person, may not be to another. The differences in every human’s moral compass is what makes it nearly impossible to choose a clear-cut definition of what is bad. However, dogs can smell hormones, and observe our movements, which may make them feel uncomfortable. What is important to remember however, is that a dog could view a serial killer, and a nervous child as equally bad.
So the next time your dog growls at someone, know that there’s usually a good reason, but don’t worry too much about being murdered!
 

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However, at the same time, the dog did know. Not for the reasons we imagine though. Dogs are quite good at smelling hormones, pheromones, and chemicals in our body.
My cousin is schizophrenic and the last dog would follow him around the house and ensure he was always seated/in a non-threatening posture. Dog knew something wasn't right for sure... med scent, monotone voice, vacant expression/shuffle... whatever it was the dog picked up on it immediately.
 

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My cousin is schizophrenic and the last dog would follow him around the house and ensure he was always seated/in a non-threatening posture. Dog knew something wasn't right for sure... med scent, monotone voice, vacant expression/shuffle... whatever it was the dog picked up on it immediately.
That’s the beauty of our canine companions! Lovely to hear he was very good to your cousin. This really is part of what makes dogs so lovable in my opinion.
 
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