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Can dogs truly smell our fear?


There is a popular saying that animals can smell our fear, but how true is this?

This is applicable when dealing with people who are scared of dogs.

Through a series of a long standing theory, the answer to whether or not dogs (and other animals) can smell or sense our fear is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Quora user, Jim Johnston conducted laboratory and field research over the years into canine smell, and decided to provide some insight into the matter.

Johnston said: “It is possible that a fear reaction changes human chemistry in ways that dogs might detect. If this were true, individual dogs might well learn to detect it without explicit training because it may be to the dog’s advantage to do so.

“However, I doubt that science has isolated gassing compounds associated with fear reactions. I suspect it is more likely that if some dogs respond to human fear reactions it is on the basis of visual cues associated with human behaviour.

“When people are afraid, their behaviour often changes in some common ways, regardless of otherwise varying circumstances. For instance, our muscles usually tense up, our breathing changes, and our movements are likely to become quicker.

“Dogs are very sensitive to subtle aspects of human behaviour and are likely to respond to such changes, especially because such circumstances have in the past had a significant impact on the dog’s behaviour.”

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