Dogs can sniff out stress

Dogs can sniff out stress

Dogs are so finely tuned to our feelings, and have such a powerful sense of smell, that they can smell stress from human sweat and breath.

In a study by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, four dogs were given samples of sweat and breath taken from participants before and after they tried to solve a difficult maths problem. The researchers only used samples where the person’s blood pressure and heart rate had increased.

The dogs were taught how to search a scent line-up and alert researchers to the correct sample. Then, in every test session, each dog was given one person’s relaxed and stressed samples, taken only four minutes apart. In more than 650 out of 700 trials, the dogs successfully identified a sample of sweat or breath from a stressed person.

It’s further evidence that dogs experience their world through smell.

“The research highlights that dogs do not need visual or audio cues to pick up on human stress,” said lead researcher Clara Wilson, a PhD student in the School of Psychology at Queen’s. “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.

“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.”

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