According to recent studies, your dog can detect when you’re under stress because of the way you smell. The study’s dogs were able to correctly identify relaxed and worried aromas in 93.75 percent of trials, even when the subject was a complete stranger. This is because the smell of human anxiety is so potent.
Four dogs were chosen by the researchers from Belfast, Northern Ireland. The scientific puppers, known by the names Treo, Fingal, Soot, and Winnie, were made up of one cocker spaniel, one cockapoo, one mixed-breed lurcher, and one mixed-breed terrier.
After attempting a quick math problem, sweat and breath samples from 36 human volunteers were taken before and after, with increases in blood pressure and heart rate confirming heightened stress levels. The four academic pups were then taught to differentiate between baseline and stressed-out samples by holding their noses close to the latter for five seconds.
Overall, 675 out of 720 trials saw the four dogs accurately identify the smell of stress, with individual dog performance varying from 90 to 96.88 percent accuracy.
The study’s lead author, Clara Wilson, said in a statement that the results “demonstrate that we, as humans, emit different odors through our perspiration and breath when we are worried and dogs can discern this apart from our smell when we are relaxed – even if it is someone they do not know.”
The canines may have been able to sniff stress hormones like cortisol, according to the researchers. They go on to say that stress causes “the activation of glycogenolysis, lipolysis, and elevated levels of renin and angiotensin II enzyme,” all of which may be visible to dogs.
Wilson continues, “The research shows that dogs can detect human tension without visual or aural signals. This is the first study of its sort, and it shows that dogs can detect tension just by perspiration and breath, which may be helpful when training service and therapy dogs.
In addition, she said, it “adds to our understanding of how dogs may comprehend and engage with human psychological states” and “sheds additional light on the human-dog interaction.”
Future research, according to the researchers, could provide more light on the phenomenon known as “emotional contagion,” in which dogs mimic their masters’ emotional condition. Although the emotional reactions of the dogs to human tension were not examined in the current study, the scientists observe that the animals typically got happy and thrilled when they located these samples because they had learned to anticipate a reward of food for a successful alert.
The authors conclude that their research “may have further relevance to the training of anxiety and PTSD service dogs, which are currently mostly trained to respond to visual signals.”