“Our bodies’ psychological stress response changes the smell of our breath and sweat,” says Clara Wilson, a psychologist at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland and one of the study’s authors, to Gizmodo’s Ed Cara. “Dogs can detect this change.”
Previous research suggests that dogs might be able to smell when humans are happy or fearful. But the researchers behind this latest study were curious about stress, an all-too-common reaction to the hassles of everyday life, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though dogs may be able to tell when a human smells stressed, it’s unclear whether they feel or behave any differently because of the odor—the study didn’t attempt to answer that sort of question. But, as Katherine Houpt, a veterinarian and animal behaviorist at Cornell who was not involved in the study, tells NBC News, dogs do seem to care when something is wrong with their humans, and “that’s why they make good emotional therapy animals.” Recommended Videos Most Popular
“This study provides further evidence of the extraordinary capabilities of ‘man’s best friend,’” says Wilson to NBC News’ Linda Carroll.
The researchers then exposed these dogs to three different scents: a standard piece of gauze, a sample from an unstressed human and a stressed odor sample. The four dogs were incredibly adept at sniffing out the stressed sample, achieving a combined 93.8 percent accuracy rate. Though the study was small, the findings suggest that humans who are stressed out may emit odors that differ from their normal smell—different enough, at least, that dogs’ highly sensitive noses can tell something’s up.
What does it mean when a dog keeps smelling you?
When dogs sniff people they are gaining all sorts of information about us. They know if we are familiar or a stranger. They know which scents we have attracted while we’ve been away. They know if we are experiencing changes in hormones, such as those that occur during pregnancy.
What are the Smelliest Dog Breeds?
Why does my dog smell bad all of a sudden?
Seasonal or food allergies can cause inflammation of the skin which leads to excessive secretion of oil from certain glands in the skin, producing a musty smell. Poor diet can contribute to this condition and can also be the cause of other problems including yeast infections, which also give off a foul odor.
Dogs Love the Smell of Stress
When a dog is startled, he may accidentally express his anal glands, which excrete an oil that smells like rotten fish. This reaction is perfectly normal and the odor will dissipate rather quickly.