Study demonstrates dogs can detect the smell of human stress

A new study provides “firm” evidence that dogs can detect the smell of stress.  Depositphotos

Impressively, the dogs correctly chose the stress sample 94% of the time. The scientists consider this “firm evidence” that stressful states can lead to particular odors, and that dogs can distinguish those odors from the ones we emit when we’re relaxed.

“The findings show that we, as humans, produce different smells through our sweat and breath when we are stressed and dogs can tell this apart from our smell when relaxed – even if it is someone they do not know,” said study author Clara Wilson.

The scientists do note that the study didn’t test whether dogs perceive stress as positive or negative, and that in real-life scenarios they likely gauge this through other cues, such as our tone of voice or breathing. They do, however, imagine the knowledge proving valuable in the training of service dogs that currently rely largely on visual cues.

“This is the first study of its kind and it provides evidence that dogs can smell stress from breath and sweat alone, which could be useful when training service dogs and therapy dogs,” said Wilson. “It also helps to shed more light on the human-dog relationship and adds to our understanding of how dogs may interpret and interact with human psychological states.”

The research was published in the journal PLOS One.

Source: Queen’s University Belfast, The Conversation


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