Dogs Are Able To Sense When You Are Stressed, Research Shows
As part of a scientific experiment in the summer 2021, Fingal, Treo, Winnie, and Soot were asked to sniff three different odor samples, with the intent of detecting a sample from a stressed human.
Dogs can indeed sense when their human companions are upset. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to pet owners.
Recent research in the journal PLOS ONE has demonstrated that dogs can sense human moods quite well. In spite of the small sample size—just four dogs and 36 human volunteers—the dogs were able to determine whether a person stressed out during a verbal math test was present versus a non-stressed or control sample. They achieved an accuracy rate of 93.8 percent as a team.
They then gave a second sample, which the dogs (one cocker spaniel, one cockapoo, and two mixed-breeds) identified. Once the (human) volunteers had provided a baseline breath sample and perspiration sample, they were asked to count backwards from 9000 in units of 17.
When humans experience different emotional states, there is a difference in the composition of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, they emit. Increasing heart rate and blood pressure can also affect VOCs, which humans are not able to recognize.
The ability of dogs to smell everything from drugs to cancer has long been well known. Previous studies have explored whether dogs can detect fear or happiness.
Pet owners have long believed that dogs can sense when something is amiss and respond with comfort by clinging to their owners or otherwise demonstrating their concern. The study didn’t examine how the dogs responded to signs of stress, only that they sensed them.
Just because a dog is capable of doing something doesn’t mean they will. The study began with 20 dogs, 16 of whom dropped out due to distraction or boredom.
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