It is well known: Animals are sensitive to stress. This is especially true for dogs. Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast have found that these adorable balls of fur can smell stress in anyone’s sweat and breath.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers conducted an experiment involving four dogs named Treo, Fingal, Soot and Winnie and about forty humans. They asked them to try to solve a particularly difficult math problem. The goal ? Collect small amounts of their breath and sweat before and after they get going. Note that the researchers did not take the second sample until they noticed an increase in the participants’ blood pressure and heart rate – two clear indicators of stress.
Meanwhile, Treo, Fingal, Soot and Winnie have been trained to spot specific scents from a range of scents. The researchers then presented the four dogs with the two types of samples collected from study participants to see if they could tell them apart by sniffing them. Assessment: they were all able to correctly identify the samples taken from each volunteer after the math exercise, even though they had never met them before.
For Clara Wilson, PhD student at Queen’s School of Psychology and lead author of the study, these results show how strongly dogs feel stress. “This study shows that dogs do not need visual or auditory cues to detect human stress. This is the first study of its kind and proves that dogs can only sense stress from their breath and sweat, which could be useful for training service and therapy dogs,” she said in a statement.
Many scientific works are interested in dogs’ formidable sense of smell. And with good reason, this animal is able to recognize certain diseases that emit odors that are undetectable to humans. Among them malaria, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and certain cancers. With 100% efficacy against breast cancer, as the Institut Curie announced in 2017 based on the first results of its Kdog protocol. Proof, if you needed it, that the dog really is man’s best friend.