What many owners were already convinced of has finally been proven by science: dogs are able to feel our emotions.
More surprisingly, we are talking here about "feeling" in the sense of the term which implies the use of the sense of smell, and not in the sense of "feeling" through a mechanism of empathy.
Here is more information to understand this fascinating subject which opens up a lot of reflections on the way we live with our animals on a daily basis...
The smell of emotions
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Naples has highlighted the importance of smells in detecting emotions. For us humans, this seems almost insane, because our sense of smell is not the most efficient, we use our eyesight to analyze our environment in all aspects of our daily lives.
In fact, for us, an emotion is perceived by the mimics displayed on the face of our peers and, eventually, by sound signals (tone of voice, crying, laughter, etc.).
This is often how we detect how someone is lying to us, thanks to the "non verbal". But this is not the approach used by our dogs! Because yes, they too can tell when you are lying, but that's the subject of another article 🙂 !
The truth is that our bodies produce scent signals in response to certain emotions, which can be detected by the sharp nose of dogs, but also, oh surprise, by that of humans without us even realizing it.
The University of Utrecht conducted an experiment in which women were unknowingly exposed to the smells of men who felt either fear or disgust.
It turned out that the women adopted unconscious behaviors expressing fear or disgust, allowing to conclude that they perceived these tiny odor signals left by their peers.
The dog and emotions
The experiment of the University of Naples tends to question the acuity of the sense of smell of dogs, their most developed sense, but the least studied in favor of the studies of their reactions to our gestures and words.
The study involved 40 Labrador and Golden Retriever dogs, accompanied by their owners in an environment designed to be as stress-free and "normal" as possible.
In this neutral environment, the dogs, accompanied by their owners, were then exposed to scent samples collected from subjects who had been subjected to different emotions.
The subjects watched happy or horrific movies according to a very precise protocol to avoid contamination of the sweat samples.
When confronted with the odors from these samples, the dogs adopted exactly the behavior expected by the scientific team, showing anxiety in the presence of odors from the subjects exposed to horror movies, and well-being in the presence of odors from the subjects who watched comedies.
The experiment found that the heart rate of dogs exposed to odors reflecting a sense of fear in the human subject also increased significantly, demonstrating the physiological effects of human emotions in the animal.
The smells we emit when we feel emotions are real communication tools that allow us to better understand each other - even unconsciously - but also facilitate inter-species communication.
The sense of smell is therefore a real facilitator in communicating with our faithful companions, especially in situations where words and facial expressions are not enough to make our feelings understood.
It is also likely that the chemical signals that our emotions transmit have played an important role in the domestication of animals and the way in which man and dog have learned to understand each other.
Loving and educating your pet also means protecting it against the hazards of life. This is why we strongly recommend that you take out health insurance as soon as possible. This will save you astronomical veterinary fees in case of accident or illness.