For research with pets that know when their owner is coming home

For school students aged from 10 to 18 in the UK

Rupert Sheldrake

Many people have found that their dog, or cat, or parrot knows when a member of the family is coming home. Many dogs and cats go and wait at the door or window, and some parrots actually announce when the person is coming by saying their name! Together with Pam Smart, my research associate, I have done experiments that show that this is not just a matter of routine timings or hearing familiar car engines. This research is summarised in my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and one of the experiments with Pam Smart's own dog can be seen online here.

I am starting a new phase of research on this phenomenon with dogs, cats and parrots. No filmed experiments with cats or parrots have yet been carried out, and we need more examples of dogs that do this.

To take part in this research you need to live in the UK, and to have an animal that already shows signs of anticipation of people coming home, preferably 10 minutes or more in advance, or you need to have a good friend or family member who has such an animal with whom you can work. I plan to appoint three people to research internships during the course of which they would be guided by telephone by Pam Smart and myself. The project will involve doing ten filmed experiments in which the person to whom the animal responds will come home at randomly-selected times by public transport or bicycle or unfamiliar vehicles (to avoid familiar car sounds).

Those who are appointed as interns and their families will receive a payment of £500, with a further allowance for camera equipment if necessary.

These research projects will be written up for publication in scientific journals and apart from the interest of taking part, this research experience will also contribute to the intern's CV.

Applicants should provide details of the pet they will be working with, how long in advance and how reliably it responds to people's homecomings, and details of the person it responds to most. This research can only be done with the cooperation of the intern's family.

Applicants should also keep a log of the animals behaviour covering at least five homecomings in which they or a member of the family records when the animal starts waiting or shows other signs of anticipation, and when the person whose return it is anticipating sets off to come home, together with details of their homeward journey and how they travelled.

Applications, including the log of the animal's returns, should be sent by email to Rupert Sheldrake and Pam Smart at the address below.

This research is being funded by the Planet Heritage Foundation, based in Florida, USA.