How Does Your Dog Know When You’re Coming Home?

Can you make it in your front door without finding your dog waiting there to greet you? Most people can’t.

Do you ever ask yourself how your dog knows when you’re home?

How does Honey the golden retriever know when we're coming home?

This is the perfect door for me to see just when you come home.

Fooling The Dog

Over the years, I’ve seen our dogs respond to the sound of our my husband driving up in the car. They often hear it first and I notice it after I see the dog go rushing for the door.

But we’ve made it tougher for Honey to know when we’re coming home.

For one thing, my husband and I both used to walk or bike to and from work. So there was no telltale sound of the car pulling up for our daily comings and goings.

And yet somehow, she always ran for the door right before my husband walked in. How did she know when I didn’t know myself?

The Dog Hears Us Coming

Eventually, I figured out what Honey was responding to.

When we rode our bikes, Mike and I would bring them around to the basement entrance in the backyard. To get there, we’d open the gate which made a quiet, but distinctive sound as the metal clasp opened.

How does our dog know when we're coming home?

Bikes are so quiet. And tricky. I’ve had to get really smart to know when you were coming home on one.

Honey was so attuned to that sound of my husband coming home that she responded to it instantly, even if she was asleep at the time.

Her attention gave her time to go running downstairs and to find a toy to greet Mike with when he came up the basement steps.

But now that we live on a boat, it’s harder for Honey to hear us coming. So why is she always waiting with a toy in her mouth when we open the companionway after being away?

How does our dog know when we're coming home?

I’m so glad you’re home. Here’s my offering.

Rocking The Boat

Honey may find herself on a different dock every day. There are no telltale noises she can count on everywhere.

And Mike and I approach the boat very quietly on foot.

How does our dog Honey know when we're coming home?

Moose, the local dock dog, didn’t make a lot of noise. But I smelled him coming.

But there’s one thing we can’t disguise—the motion of the boat as we step on board.

Our boat is pretty heavy for being less than 40 feet long. It weighs just under 14,000 pounds.

But in the water, that’s light enough that we can rock it just by stepping on board. And it tells Honey we’re home. So she has time to wake up, find her favorite toy, and be looking up at us from the bottom of the companionway stairs.

Honey is a clever girl. But I’ve never seen any sign that she’s telepathic.

Is your dog?

Jaytee The Mind Reading Dog

Have you heard about Rupert Sheldrake and Pamela Smart’s experiments with Jaytee?

Jaytee was Pamela Smart’s dog. And he always seemed to anticipate her coming home. In fact, experiments done over time found Jaytee going to the window around the time Pamela left wherever she had been to go home.

If you’re cynical, you probably have the same thoughts I did.

Jaycee might be responding to the people in the house who knew when Pamela would be heading home. Or maybe people see him going to the window and assume he’s waiting for Pamela when he’s actually just watching the squirrels.

But you can read about Sheldrake’s research for yourself to see all the ways they tried to fool Jaytee. And the data show Jaytee anticipating his person coming home by a far greater than random chance.

See for yourself. An Austrian television program did their own simple experiment with synchronized cameras to see if Jaytee really did expect when Pam Smart was coming home.

I don’t know if some dogs have telepathy with their humans. But sometimes it certainly seems that way.

So maybe the next time you come home to find your dog waiting for you by the front door, you won’t assume he or she just heard your call pull up.

Because your dog might be reading your mind to know when you’re coming home.

How does Honey the golden retrieve know when we're coming home?

And if I miss the rocking of the boat, it won’t take me long to find my toy if I keep him close.

Your Turn: Can you sneak into your house without our dog knowing you’re home? If not, how does your dog know you’re home?



  1. http://Meagan%20&%20Merlin says

    Merlin knows when his dad gets home before i do. My previous dog knew i was coming home 14 minutes beforehand and this was after I’d been away for a few months.
    Once when i was a kid i stepped on a pile of broken glass and cut up my foot kinda bad and on the car trip home another dog i had was next to me and she put her paw under and on top of my hand and rested her chin ontop of it.
    I don’t think dogs are mind readers. They are very good at sensing.

    • Dogs are AMAZING at sensing. Humans are rank amateurs by comparison.

      Did you last dog know you were coming home because of the reaction of other people around the house?

      • http://Meagan%20&%20Merlin says

        I don’t think so. I think my mum wasn’t doing anything special and she noticed that Smokey was acting weird.

  2. http://Martine says

    When we lived in the city, our dogs would hear my spouse’s car turn onto our street and go to the front window to watch her pull in our drive. If I was paying attention, I could be at the door to greet her :-).

    Now, our gravel drive is about 300 metres long, so they have ample opportunity to hear us arrive. Sometimes, though, in the summer when we’re outside, they can tell it’s her vehicle when it’s about a half-kilometre from our drive.

    I’m pretty sure they recognize the sound of her vehicle.

  3. I’m not sure, but it would make an interesting experiment.

    I was thinking about our previous conversation, about dog body language in greeting strange dogs. I do have a couple videos, of my collies greeting other dogs at a doggie day care. But my daughter doesn’t work there any longer, so it would be difficult to get new ones.

    • It’s an experiment that takes a lot of work to rule out all other influences. Although I don’t know if most of us care how our dogs know we’re coming home. We’re just glad they’re happy to see us.

      If you have good video from old experiences at your daughter’s day care, maybe you should do a post with some demonstrations. I bet lots of people would be happy to share positive dog interactions. I know I would.

  4. Jack sleeps by the door, so it’s pretty hard, but as he gets older and his hearing gets worse, I can get in the house now – not always, but sometimes. Tino was the best – he could hear Steve come in the gate to our community – a block away – and wake up and get in the house to the back door to greet him before Steve was even in the driveway.

  5. http://Sharon%20Gilbert says

    My dogs can hear my car coming down the street before I am driving in the driveway! I try and come from a different way and they still know unless they can tell time and know I am coming home. I LOVE being greeted at the door makes me feel loved!

    • It’s is great. But Honey keeps us humble. She’s happy to see us come up but she’s basically calm. But when one of our friends (or even the meter reader) came to visit, she went insane.

      Y’know those videos where a marine home from a deployment was greeted by his insane dog? That’s what Honey looks like whenever a stranger visits.

      It’s enough to give me a lack of confidence. 🙂

  6. Before Callie’s second ACL tear in 2014, she used to be waiting at the door for us whenever we got home. And Shadow would be right there with her. I don’t know if it was ESP or just hearing the car pulling into the driveway. But that 2nd tear took with it some of her self-confidence. And she rarely got up to greet us. And Shadow, being the devoted sister that she was, would not leave her side. Now, though, Shadow has gradually gone back to greeting us at the door, gorgeous Golden floofy tail wagging the whole body as we step through the doorway. And I know Callie is right there beside her sister even though I can’t see her.

  7. No mystery around here. Misty the alpha Poodle learned to tell time years ago and I’m quite predictable.

    • Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Misty the alpha Poodle tells you what time she wants you to come home. 🙂

  8. I can’t tell if B knows when I am home or not. More often than not, I will walk through the door and find her lying in her favorite chair with her head hanging off the side, staring at the floor. She’s very mellow about me coming through the door. She will slowly rouse herself and then be insistent on having her dinner or a snack. I know she likes me and all – but she just expresses it differently. My last dog Shadow used to dig grooves into the door clawing at it til I finally got it open. That door was sanded and repainted many times…I think I prefer B’s method of “greeting” me since I don’t feel the pressure I did with Shadow to get the door open in a timely fashion. I remember breaking into a sweat if I’d drop the keys because that meant more frantic scrabbling at the door because I was taking too long. Lol.

    • Funny that YOUR Shadow was so excitable. MY Shadow was more like Blueberry. I’d have to go looking for her when I got home.

      And yes, I don’t mind it one bit. Hide and Seek with a puppy is also good.

  9. If Wilson is sleeping hard, he will miss us sometimes. His hearing is going, so obviously he was relying on that to a certain degree. When John is out on his Harley, Jimmy can hear him when he’s still about a mile from home! He goes and waits by the door.

  10. Phoenix always knows when my husband is on his way home. Usually 15-20 minutes before he gets here she will wait by the door. I always thought that maybe it was because of his routine. His routine is very similar.

    One day she started sitting by the door around lunch time and I was like, no way! Phoenix, Daddy won’t be home until later.. Literally 15 minutes later he was home. He came home on his lunch because he forgot something!! It was pretty amazing!

  11. That photo of Honey holding the stuffed toy is just precious 🙂

    Very impressive that she can tell when you step on the boat.

  12. No psychic powers here-no one knows dad is home until they see the lights in the driveway and the garage door goes up!

  13. I don’t know about telepathy, but about 10 minutes before Ted gets home from a business trip Toby goes to his watching post on the front steps and waits. I’ve tried to figure out how he knows and the best I can come up with is that when he sees me tidying the house and putting on makeup he makes the association…but that still doesn’t explain how he knows when he’s on his way…

  14. It varies with Rita. Sometimes she’s laying there by the door when I open it, leg lifted so I can rub her tummy. It always looks like she’s just been there like that the whole time I was gone! Other times, I come in the door and have to call for her and she comes slinking out of our bedroom – I’ve obviously woken her up! She does LOVE a good snooze!

    I read a book a few years back – I think it was called Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. It was fantastic! So interesting!

  15. Those pictures of Honey are just adorable and it’s nice she has a dock buddy. I guess she might not see him for awhile if you’re still heading to Florida, but she’ll be happy when you head back north.

    It’s pretty hard to sneak up on Haley, since we always come home through the garage and she hears the opener.

  16. Always love coming home early and catching Sam napping solidly, otherwise he’s at the door at the normal time EVERY single time. Not sure how he does it but his internal clock is spot on without fail. Who’d have thought that knuckle headed hound could get it so right?! 🙂

  17. Harley parks himself by the front door and will remain there until I return OR it gets dark. If I’m out overnight – Lee will shut the door in the evening and Harley then knows I’m not returning until the morning. Smart Doodle!