Do dogs know when someone is afraid of them?

The science is in, and the answer is a resounding YES—dogs can smell fear. Dogs have olfactory superpowers that can detect a human’s emotional state by the scent that a human emits. That’s right—you can’t hide fear from dogs.

Because it has long been believed that dogs can literally “smell” fear and will occasionally react violently, it is advised above not to show fear to dogs.

This is sound advice, but perhaps not for the reason you might think. Dogs frequently respond to the emotions that they sense in their owners, so if you’re scared, they probably will be too.

There are a few signs that dogs give off when they sense your fear. Body language is the biggest way we communicate with canines. But can dogs actually smell your fear?.

Theresa Barlow, PhD, and Craig Roberts, authors of The Psychology of Dog Ownership, claim that the canine nose has about 200 million scent receptors, making it significantly more sensitive than the human nose. According to other sources, there are approximately 300 million canine scent receptors.

Let’s use the following example from the real world: You recently had a pizza delivered. You might smell just a pizza. Mmmm … pizza. The ingredients in the various cheeses, the spices in the sauce, the yeast in the crust, the people who handled the box, and other things will also be picked up by your dog’s nose in addition to the word “pizza.”

The strongest sense in a dog is scent, so it stands to reason that they would use their nose to gain so much knowledge of their surroundings.

A dog can sniff a person, a tree, another dog, or just about anything and gather a wealth of information thanks to their incredible scent receptors. When they smell your pant leg, they’re picking up not only the scent of your laundry detergent but also information about your whereabouts, whether you were around other people or animals, other people’s scents, and a lot more.

Dogs are even being enlisted in the global fight against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, as previously reported here at Petful. Once training is finished, it is anticipated that the COVID-19 detection dogs will be able to screen up to 250 people per hour with a high degree of accuracy, even if the humans are asymptomatic.

According to research published in the journal Animal Cognition in January 2018, a team at the University of Naples Federico II led by neurobiologist Biagio D’Aniello, PhD, tested whether dogs could recognize chemicals indicative of human emotion in sweat.

Participants with Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers were then given these sweat samples at random to inspect.

The study was conducted in a serene setting with the dogs present with their owners. Do human body odors (chemosignals) produced during emotional states of happiness and fear provide information that is detectable by pet dogs? was the question the researchers sought to answer.

I’ll end the suspense now and say that the experiment was successful. It demonstrated that dogs can detect both fear and happiness.

In the study, dogs exposed to fear-induced sweat displayed remarkably different behavior from those exposed to “happy sweat.” “Dogs exposed to the fear sweat showed overall higher stress indicators and significantly higher heart rates.

So, again, yes — dogs can in fact smell fear. Or, rather, dogs can recognize the chemicals our bodies produce when we’re afraid and can infer from those chemicals what we’re feeling.

The results of a related experiment that some of the same researchers later carried out with horses were released in July 2018. Surprise! It also turns out that horses are able to detect your happiness or fear.

According to a follow-up article published in the open-access journal Animal in November 2019, “These results are paving the way for further studies on human-animal communication through emotional chemosignals.”

The article noted that it is unclear whether the smell of these chemicals causes “an automatic emotional response or whether the emotional responses are learned.” ”.

I love dogs, I work with dogs as a professional pet sitter and dog walker, so I am aware of how frightening it can be to encounter an aggressive dog occasionally. The best course of action in these tense circumstances is to attempt to reduce the dog’s aggression:

Thus, despite the fact that you may smell frightened, the dog can tell you are not a threat from your body language. This could buy you some extra time for the dog’s owner to come and corral their pet or for assistance.

When you have a brief window of opportunity to try to repel an aggressive attack, use the example from above. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time, unfortunately. This past May, three dogs in my neighborhood broke out of their home and attacked a FedEx delivery person. The driver was taken to a nearby hospital, where she received medical attention for her wounds. Afterward, she was reported to be “alert but shaken. ” Officials noted, “It could have been a lot worse. ”.

When that happens, take the necessary action to escape and find safety. If you frequently walk in areas where you may encounter stray, potentially aggressive dogs, think about having an air horn or a deterrent spray with citronella in it with you.

Remember to “do your best to remain calm so as not to escalate the situation with your own panicked behavior” when interacting with an aggressively approaching dog, suggests dog trainer Stephanie Colman.

Everyone feels fear. It’s impossible not to be afraid. Through chemicals released by the brain, your body odor will reflect your emotional state. And dogs do pick up on that fear. But you can keep some of your control by acting in the right ways.

The History Behind Dogs Smelling Fear

Do dogs know when someone is afraid of them?

It turns out that the adage that “dogs can smell your fear” has a scientific basis. It’s usually used to tell someone they need to act tough or brave lest what they fear realize how scared they really are. But it’s more of a misconception than a myth.

People sweat when they are frightened, and when their adrenaline is pumping, they release a pretty distinct odor. Therefore, when someone claims that a dog or other animal can “smell your fear,” they actually mean that they can “smell what your fear is making your body produce.” “.

In a way, this strange myth holds true because dogs can definitely smell your chemical changes and detect your body language if you’re afraid of them.

Do dogs know when someone is afraid of them?

Dogs cannot literally smell the emotion of fear, but they can detect when a person’s body odor or composition changes as a result of how they are feeling.

For instance, when people are scared or anxious, they frequently sweat, which has a smell that dogs can easily recognize. Additionally, when our hormone-filled smell of adrenaline pumps up, we emit it. Dogs, who have a sense of smell measured in parts per trillion, may not be able to detect this scent, but they can easily detect the scent of adrenaline.

They can definitely detect the change in smell and respond to it, even though they are unsure of what it means or why it is happening. Dogs can’t actually smell fear, so to speak, but they can definitely tell how you’re feeling from the sweat on your brow.

Signs Your Dog is Sensing Someone’s Fear

While your dog cannot smell actual fear, they can smell and sense bodily reactions that could alert them to your anxiety or nervousness. Your dog may respond in a variety of ways if they notice that someone is afraid of them, uneasy around them, or anxious.

For instance, very sensitive dogs may instantly relax. They might become less animated and happy to meet you and adopt a more measured manner instead. Good-natured dogs are usually able to change their behavior when they sense that someone is afraid of them because they are perceptive animals.

This happens with children sometimes. Sensitive, intelligent breeds will frequently soften their approach and introduce themselves to people who are afraid of them slowly or in a playful manner.

Other times, though, dogs can respond negatively to fear reactions. If a person is anxious, fearful, or nervous, that might not translate well to a dog, and they might experience the same emotions. If this occurs, it’s possible that your dog will become nervous and frightened. Additionally, it’s possible for your dog to become combative and aggressive, which could manifest as some uncalled-for barking, nipping, or warning growls.

The following are some signs that a person is uneasy, afraid, or anxious that your dog might pick up on:

  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Guarding
  • Cowering
  • Jumping Up
  • Back Hair On Edge
  • Biting
  • Exposed Teeth
  • Other indicators that your dog is aware that someone is scared of them include the following:

    The Science of Dogs Sensing Fear

    Do dogs know when someone is afraid of them?

    A dog can pick up on a person’s fear in a number of ways, depending on whether the fear is directed at the dog specifically or is caused by something else.

    One of the most effective ways is through changes in body language, as dogs are very skilled at reading body language and rely on it heavily to communicate with humans. Your dog can detect fear more easily if your voice changes when you speak, and the smell of increased perspiration can also help.


    What do dogs do when someone is scared?

    When in the presence of people, dogs who are afraid of them may exhibit one or more of the following body language cues: they may move or back away, avoid eye contact, tuck their tails, crouch, cower, tremble, put their ears back, run away, or hide.

    What happens if a dog knows your scared?

    Your dog will notice if you’re showing signs of fear. Some dog breeds may respond by attempting to protect you, while others will likely react with the same level of fear as you do. However, almost all dogs are quick to pick up on their owner’s fear or anxiety.

    Why do dogs go to certain people when scared?

    Usually, a dog will sniff a person they don’t like because of the pheromones that person emits. These pheromones may be a warning or a threat to the dog, alerting it to be cautious. A dog may be exposed to human pheromones that smell nervousness or fear.