Can Dogs Smell Fear in People?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. May 16, 2017
Can Dogs Smell Fear in People?

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It is proven that dogs have much more powerful abilities than those in human beings, especially when it comes to the sense of smell. For dogs, this sense is highly developed.

The most frequently asked questions on a dog's sense of smell are: How developed is there smell? What scents can they detect? And more commonly, Can dogs interpret emotions, feelings or sensations through smell?

This new Animal Wised article investigates the popular belief that dogs can smell fear in people. Keep reading to find out whether this concept has scientific validity, is a pure myth or a bit of both.

You may also be interested in: Can Cats Sense our Fear?

A hormonal matter

To answer in short, dogs can sense fear but they cannot smell it. They can identify body odor that certain hormones release when a sudden change of emotions occurs (such as stress, anxiety or excitement). However it is not known for sure if the dog is able to analyse, identify and label those reactions.

These hormones are released both in the blood and in other body fluids (Sweat, tears and urine). This means that when the body must produce these hormones, the person or other animal will smell different and the dog will detect there is a change.

Research has shown that human sweat from anxiety smells different from sweat induced by physical activity.

The fact that dogs react strangely or negatively when you are nervous does not prove they can smell your fear. Some dogs will attack simply because there is a peculiar smell. However, other dogs may not notice it.

Please note that your beloved canine companion has a world full of smells around it, all at the same time.

Can Dogs Smell Fear in People? - A hormonal matter

Body language is also an influencing factor

A dog's ability to read your body language is even more impressive than its sense of smell. It is possible to detect fear more accurately through behavior or expression, however small it may be. Dogs are very sensitive animals and have investigative skills. They are very capable of feeling fear just by looking at us.

In many cases our fear is an irrational and unconscious emotion, by way of protection. It could lead us to take an aggressive or apprehensive attitude towards the dog. The dog may react according to both our behavior in that tense moment, just like its own emotional education.

In conclusion, you shouldn't be stiff or tense in the presence of a dog. You should always try to be positive and stay calm in any situation that may cause them some anxiety. Finally, while we fully trust dogs (because they have always been man's best friends) they are still creatures of the animal kingdom; of which we need to discover more.

Can Dogs Smell Fear in People? - Body language is also an influencing factor

If you want to read similar articles to Can Dogs Smell Fear in People?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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