It is amazing when dogs seem to know exactly how their humans are doing. Do they really know what we are feeling? The curiosity that dogs show when they are in new situations is very interesting. When they meet new people, they sometimes react excitedly, while other times they appear to be more hesitant. How do dogs decide whether they like someone? Do they use their sense of smell? Can dogs smell adrenaline?
Signs that a Dog is Smelling Adrenaline
When people are nervous, angry, or scared, they release adrenaline. This increase in adrenaline leads to even just a little bit of sweat production. Dogs can pick up on this quickly. In order to best serve their owners, dogs are able to smell specific and subtle scents that humans are not able to pick up on.
There are a few telltale signs that a dog can sense when someone is scared. These reactions depend upon a dog's personality and breed. Some dogs will get defensive when they sense that someone is scared. They stand by their owners, start barking, and of course, start sniffing more. A dog will be on alert until they are sure that they are not in a threatening situation.
Other dogs will respond to one person's distress with fear of their own. If they sense that someone is angry, they may get scared. You'll be able to tell if a dog is fearful when they have their tail between their legs, their ears lowered, and their heads lowered.
The best way to tell if a dog is scared is by paying attention to these body language signs.
- Ears drop
- Standing defensively
- Standing by their human
- Acting agressive
The History of Dogs' Sense of Smell
This trait has evolved over the last 15,000 years. Dogs evolved from wolves - the first animals to be domesticated by humans. Originally, dogs and humans roamed the wild separately. Humans and wolves learned that they could help each other. Wolves helped humans hunt and protected the community. Humans gave wolves their leftover food and provided shelter. This reciprocal relationship led to a closer bond.
The wolves that were better able to predict and respond to situations grew closer to the humans. Those wolves began to evolve as their new traits were passed on to future generations. More and more, wolves began to look more like the many dogs we know and love today.
Different dogs were bred for different things. Some were helpful hunters, some were protective, and others were cute and cuddly. Now, there are countless different combinations of amazing dogs.
These dogs use their sense of smell to understand humans and tell when they are distressed.
The Science of Dogs' Sense of Smell
Over thousands of years, dogs have learned to associate different smells with different situations. This has helped them understand what humans need. When dogs are best able to respond to their humans, the bond between them grows even stronger.
There is a specific part of our brains that processes smells. Dogs also have a part of the brain responsible for the sense of smell. Theirs is 40 times bigger than ours!
Training Dogs to Smell Adrenaline
Some people train their dogs to be defensive when they smell adrenaline, and others train their dogs to stay calm in those instances. When dogs are born, they have not fully developed their eyesight, and they cannot hear for the first couple of weeks of their lives. However, they are able to use their sense of smell as soon as they are born.
This powerful smelling ability can be used to save lives! Dogs can be trained to respond to different smells - they can smell drugs, weapons, and they can even smell when a diabetic has low blood sugar. These dogs are specifically trained as service dogs and can assist people in many different ways.
Have no fear, your dog does not have to be a service dog to respond to smells in a specific way. In order to train your dog to respond to different scents, you can begin by exposing them to the scent and helping them do the action you want them to do. When your dog responds in the correct way to a specific scent, you can provide tons of praise and give them treats.
It is possible to train dogs to find specific scents. This is called "tracking," and it involves a dog following a scent trail in order to find the source of the scent. You can start teaching this skill by exposing your dog to the specific smell you want them to learn. Command your dog to retrieve the item, even when they can see it. Over time, start hiding the object. Your dog will start to smell for it. When they successfully retrieve the item, give your dog positive reinforcement and encouragement.
Consistent and regular training sessions are a key component of teaching your dog new things. While you and your dog are practicing new skills, you are also bonding and gaining a better understanding of each other.
How to React When Your Dog Detects a Smell:
Encourage the behavior.
Identify what exactly they have found.
Help them respond to humans in a safe way.