I ask here the opposite of this question.

My dog is at home. A few minutes before I arrive home by car, he gets excited that I arrive (I know because the parents tell me so).

He keeps his excitement all the time, while I park the car, and enter the door - when he greets me personally.

Smell, noise and other "standard" senses should be pretty much useless. The distance is too big, and the interferences too strong.

This might be related to the question: how do animals sense danger (e.g. earthquakes, storms...)?

However, in these cases there are vibrations or sounds in the ground (transmitted through the building walls) or specific changes in air pressure.

Humans are too insensitive to feel these, but animals are not.

Schematic of the area:

enter image description here

  • red line: my path with car (on normal streets);
  • cyan areas: buildings taller or much taller than the car;
  • purple square: wild estimation where I am when the dog starts to be excited;
  • the green-ish stuff - lots of vegetation: tall bushes, trees, tall trees...
  • in the anonymized white area there are also tall buildings and vegetation;
  • 3
    Do you usually come home at the same time every day?
    – Elmy
    Oct 17, 2019 at 11:17
  • To add to @Elmy if yes, try to come home eg 30 mins before you normally do. Depends on you car [ and the age of your dogs ;-( ], even if cars are frequently passing through you street, they may recognize the sound of the engine a bit further, if "special sound", but if you drive a "normal car" and come at an unexpected time, I think they only recognize when your car is decelerating in order to park it [presumably] in front of the house.
    – Tuomo
    Oct 17, 2019 at 12:11
  • @Elmy: the time of day is not a factor. The same thing happens during the weekend, when I come and go totally randomly. Even during the week, I am not a strict-schedule kind of person anyway. It also happens when I return from vacation.
    – virolino
    Oct 17, 2019 at 13:08
  • @Tuomo: I have a 2008 Ford Focus, well taken care of (nothing excessive or special, but not neglected either). The dog reacts when I am still several turns away (possibly half km / mile away), between relatively crowded buildings.
    – virolino
    Oct 17, 2019 at 13:27
  • 3
    "the time of day is not a factor" but the time passed after you left can play a part. The dog can percieve the decay of your scent in the house and use it as a measure of time. I've seen an experiment on TV indicating that this is a possibility (sorry, couldn't find it on internet). Of course it still doesn't explain the dog's reaction when you come and go randomly.
    – Draakhond
    Oct 19, 2019 at 10:48

2 Answers 2


Dogs have a super-sensitive hearing factor and can actually recognize the sound of your car engine, etc. My wife can be coming home and still be a block away, and the dogs react. She doesn't have a specific schedule, so they are not using that as a cue. Their hearing does have a range; I can count to exactly when she will appear down the street from our house based on when they start barking. It only takes one dog to recognize her car engine for that bark to activate and get the rest of them barking. I have used phone tracking to prove this theory too. Also, if she borrows my car, they don't react.


If you have a relatively regular schedule, your dog knows you're coming home from scent. As the day goes on after you leave your house, the scent of your presence reduces at a very regular and predictable rate. Your dog starts to get excited when it smells like you've been gone for around the amount of time you're usually gone for. I saw this on a TV show that might have been a NOVA episode several years ago, so I have no source.

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