Dog owners already know that their pets can sense their emotions, and science has now confirmed it. And, it has a lot to do with a dog’s incredible sense of smell. According to a new study published in New Scientist, dogs can not only read visual and aural clues that tell them what humans are feeling, but they can also smell human emotions and adopt them as their own. Essentially, whatever you are feeling, your dog feels the same way.
Biagio D’Aniello, a researcher on the study, said: “The role of the olfactory system has been largely underestimated, maybe because our own species is more focused on the visual system.”
While it is well known that dogs have a superior sense of smell, the fact that they can scent out other people’s emotional states implies that they have access to a whole new world of social information. It’s possible that our pets’ intuitiveness comes from this enhanced sensitivity.
D’Aniello and colleagues gathered sweat samples from human volunteers after they watched videos that provoked intense emotional responses. The sweat samples, as well as the odors associated with them, were then given to a group of dogs, while researchers observed their behavior and heart rates. Surprisingly, the dogs adopted behaviors and stress responses that were similar to the feelings felt by the human volunteers.
When the pets smelled sweat samples related to human fear responses, the dogs acted scared, seeking extra reassurance from their owners while avoiding interaction with outsiders.
There were several anecdotal accounts given by pet parents about such occurrences. Ben Goldberg of Scottsdale, Arizona, describes how his mini Goldendoodle, Yadi, crawled into his wife’s lap after they discovered that an initial reproductive therapy had failed. “He immediately sensed she was upset,” Goldberg said. Yadi recently did the same thing again. My wife found out last month that her grandmother had passed away and, as soon as the call ended, he immediately curled up into her.”
This new study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting dogs have a high level of emotional intelligence, particularly when it comes to understanding their human companions. Scientists believe that the domestication of dogs over thousands of years has resulted in this highly developed canine intuition.