Dogs are very perceptive. In fact, animals as a whole are very aware of what’s going on in the universe. It’s why they can smell storms on the horizon and bark way before a fire truck siren even gets going. But did you know they were also aware of our stress levels? Well, they are and it affects them too.
‘Keep calm and carry on.’ The expression is perhaps the most repeated on social media, and perhaps even sarcastically so. In the end, it’s easier said than done. If you do manage to ‘keep calm,’ it turns out, it also aids in keeping your dog calm as well.
You know those times when you’re perhaps blowing a gasket, so to speak, upset at the mail that’s late when you just need that check; maybe the guy out in front of you on the highway that just cut you off illegally, and even deigned to show you some inappropriate sign language because—excuse you—you were just, I don’t know, respecting the law and doing the speed limit!
In the end, perhaps your stress levels are ‘elevated,’ for lack of a better term, for any other reason under God’s hot sun…and well, it can indeed affect your dog as well.
Maybe after reacting to the aforementioned dude that cut you off, you look to the passenger seat at your pup, and he’s giving you that head tilt that he’s come to do often around you; maybe he senses that your blood pressure is up and all because of what he’s smelling as you yell at the top of your lungs or calm down from that yelling.
Really? My dog can smell my stress on me? Turns out it’s true. Read on to find out how a group of researchers found this out…
A study at Queen’s University Belfast proved just this with an interesting experiment. The experiment was focused on four dogs in particular…Winnie, Soot, Treo and Fingal. The experiment also included 36 people, according to a report at sciencedaily.com.
The studies done shows that dogs, these four dogs in particular, were able to distinguish between a stressed out subject and a non-stressed subject, and all by being given samples of their sweat and/or breath.
"“The findings show that we, as humans, produce different smells through our sweat and breath when we are stressed and dogs can tell this apart from our smell when relaxed — even if it is someone they do not know…The research highlights that dogs do not need visual or audio cues to pick up on human stress. This is the first study of its kind and it provides evidence that dogs can smell stress from breath and sweat alone, which could be useful when training service dogs and therapy dogs…”-via Clara Wilson – PhD student – School of Psychology at Queen’s (Transcription: sciencedaily.com-link above)"
This is also why dogs that have suffered time in environments such as service departments (fire, police, rescue, military), or even who live in bad neighborhoods, have issues with behaviors sometimes, or even go through post traumatic stress disorder.
"“It also helps to shed more light on the human-dog relationship and adds to our understanding of how dogs may interpret and interact with human psychological states.”-via Clara Wilson – PhD student – School of Psychology at Queen’s (Transcription: sciencedaily.com-link above)"
Of course dogs, even cats and other animals, sniff the air and wind around them. Just take a look at your own dog when the wind picks up; he or she is very likely to stick his or her nose up and sniff the wind for whatever’s on the horizon or what’s in the air.
So are dogs sages? Yes, in a sense they are…animals are very perceptive, as stated at the start of this piece, and we as humans can learn thing or two about listening to them a wee bit more than we already do.
Have you noticed your dog get agitated when you yourself are stressed? Does your dog show signs of stress too? Let us know.