'Clairvoyant' terrier makes a dog's breakfast of psychic powers test

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FOR PET owners who think Rover knows when they will return or their mystic moggie can sense their movements, there is bad news: scientific experiments have concluded that pets are not psychic.

The British Journal of Psychology today publishes a series of experiments carried out on a "mystic" dog whose owner claimed it could sense exactly when she decided to come home. Jaytee had already become a minor celebrity, appearing on several television programmes. She had been filmed going to the window at the moment her owner, Pam Smart, decided to return home from some miles away.

Dr Richard Wiseman and Dr Matthew Smith of the University of Hertfordshire set up trials to see whether five-year-old Jaytee could still predict Ms Smart's return under experimental conditions. Watches were synchronised, different cars were used (in case Jaytee could recognise the sound of Ms Smart's car), and both owner and dog were continuously videotaped.

In four experiments held over six months, Jaytee continually failed to predict Ms Smart's return, the scientists said.

In the first experiment Jaytee did indeed go to the porch at the time Ms Smart decided to go home. The psychologists concluded this had more to do with a car pulling up outside and a dog walking past than extra- sensory perception.

The second experiment was also unsuccessful, although Ms Smart felt that Jaytee might have been distracted by the fish van arriving at the moment she decided to leave the distant location.

Further experiments held in the winter, when there were fewer distractions for the terrier, found that although Jaytee did visit the porch for more than two minutes it was not at the time Ms Smart decided to return. In one further experiment, Jaytee did respond at the target time but it was concluded this was because she felt ill and had to go into the garden to vomit.

Dr Smith admitted he was slightly disappointed with the results.

"Yes I was a little disappointed," he said. "I've worked with Dr Wiseman on similar claims, usually with people rather than animals, and under controlled conditions things don't happen. I am a bit sceptical about these things."

He added that he was still interested in carrying out more research in this area.