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Your Body Smells When It's Stressed And Your Dog Can Sniff It Out

It turns out that our canine friends can detect such stress-related changes, even in strangers. Stress may produce all kinds of physiological changes in the human body, from heart rates to the chemicals released into circulation.

Of course, we already know that dogs are excellent sniffers, but in this new study, scientists for the first time looked at how a dog's talent for smelling out the tension in humans in carefully controlled lab tests.

Research may be utilized to enhance training for dogs that assist with anxiety, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder in addition to deepening our understanding of the bond between dogs and their owners (PTSD).

According to animal behavior researcher Clara Wilson of Queen's University Belfast in the UK, "the results show that we, as humans, produce different smells through our sweat and breath when we are under stress, and dogs can tell this apart from our smell when we are relaxed - even if it is someone they do not know."


The study shows that canines can detect human tension without visual or aural signals.

Treo, Fingal, Soot, and Winnie were the four canines used in the study, which included 36 participants and comprised a total of 720 scent assessments. The human participants were required to solve a challenging arithmetic problem while also self-reporting their stress levels.


Sweat and breath samples were collected after each human participant's heart rate and blood pressure had risen. These were then given to the dogs to test if they could spot the baseline control samples, which were relaxed samples obtained four minutes before the task began, amid the stress samples.

Indeed, the dogs performed that action with a great degree of precision. The canines were able to appropriately alert scientists to the stressed sample in 94% of the 720 trials.


Wilson told The Guardian, "It was very fantastic to watch them be so sure in telling me, "Nope, these two items clearly smell different."


Dogs seem to be able to detect the molecular changes brought on by stress, with odors acting as the only alarm.

The results of the trials astonished more than just the researchers; a two-year-old Cocker Spaniel called Treo's owner stated that their dog was eager to see the researchers and participate in the study and even found his way to the lab on his own.


Helen Parks, Treo's owner, says the research "made us more conscious of a dog's capacity to utilize their nose to see the world." We think that this study significantly improved Treo's capacity to detect a change in mood at home.

"The study confirmed for us that dogs are incredibly perceptive and sensitive animals, and there is enormous benefit in doing what they do best - smelling!"


This new study neatly connects those two discoveries together with some careful data gathering. Previous studies have demonstrated that dogs can replicate human levels of stress and sense emotions like contentment and anxiety through the aromas that we give out.

The new study may provide some helpful information on how dogs see (well, smell) the outside world and interact with the people they come across.


We are aware that smell appears to play a significant part when it comes to canines reflecting the mood of the humans they are around. Another possibility is that dogs are emotionally perceptive and are motivated to reassure or console their owners.

This may be added to the vast list of subtle changes in people that canines can detect even in the absence of outward symptoms. Canines have, in the past, been employed to detect out COVID-19 infections, as an example.


According to Wilson, this is the first study of its sort and shows that dogs can detect tension only by breath and perspiration, which may be helpful for training service dogs and therapy dogs.

"It also contributes to our understanding of how dogs may comprehend and interact with human psychological states and sheds additional light on the human-dog interaction."


The study has been made public via PLOS ONE.

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