Have you ever wondered how your mood might be affecting others? Your fellow humans aren’t the only species in your immediate circle that may take notice when your stress levels are heightened, according to new research.
While most of us observe signs of stress through what we see and hear, our dogs come equipped with their own additional tool to identify this mood change in humans — their snoots.
According to a recent study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, dogs are not only able to sense a human’s mood change, but they are also able to detect stress through smell. The study concludes that our beloved canine friends have the ability to distinguish stress levels via our scent — specifically the odors associated with our breath and sweat.
“Dogs were able to discriminate, with a high degree of accuracy, between human breath and sweat samples taken at baseline and when experiencing psychological stress,” the study’s authors wrote.
So, what exactly does that mean? Clara Wilson, an author of the study and PhD student in the School of Psychology at Ireland’s Queen’s University Belfast, told Gizmodo that “the take-home message of this study is that our bodies’ psychological stress response changes the smell of our breath and sweat, and that dogs can detect this change.”
Essentially, your breath and sweat literally smell different when you are stressed, and your furry friend can tell.
In order to test dogs’ stress-sniffing capabilities, researchers enlisted 4 dogs and 36 humans for the study’s testing process, Smithsonian Magazine reported. The study’s method utilized two samples of saliva from the three dozen human participants, one being a baseline control and the other being a “stress” specimen. The “mild-stress inducing” test sample was collected after the participants took part in a “Mental Arithmetic Task,” according to the study.
The four dogs used in the experiment “were able to detect with a greater than 90 percent accuracy which samples came from before and which came from after the 36 human volunteers had spent three minutes trying to count backward, aloud, from 9,000 in units of 17,” per NBC News.
So, the next time your pooch stares deeply into your eyes or gently extends their paw out to you, it wouldn’t hurt to take a moment and assess your mood — your furry friend may be sensing your stress and trying to calm you.