The Smell of Stress

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Dogs can sniff out many things, from hidden narcotics to individuals infected with the coronavirus.

Previous studies have suggested that pooches can also pick up on human emotions. New research now shows that they can smell when their owners are stressed, USA Today reported.

In a new study, a research team wrote that stress can cause physiological changes to an individual’s sweat and breath, changing the odor. Dogs can detect these changes.

For their experiments, they collected breath and sweat samples from human participants before and after they completed a “stress-inducing” task. The team then trained the canines to distinguish between a “stress” sample and a “baseline” sample.

Unsurprisingly, the animals correctly determined the stress sample in 675 out of 720 trials –about 94 percent of the time.

Researchers explained that the dogs can smell volatile organic compounds and the findings suggest that they can identify that those changes have been induced by acute negative stress.

They added that more research is needed to understand how untrained dogs might communicate or interpret these changes in such compounds in humans.

The discovery may contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between service dogs and owners suffering from anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

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