4 min read


Can Dogs Smell Depression?



4 min read


Can Dogs Smell Depression?


Dogs seem to have a unique ability to predict and react to humans. They know what we need before we know what we need. They play with us, they cuddle with us, and they go on adventures with us every day. One of the key building blocks to the relationship between humans and dogs is the special connection and ability to read each other. 

We can often understand how our dogs are feeling based on how they are acting. Can dogs do the same with us? How do our dogs know when we are happy? How do they know when we are sad? Can dogs smell depression? 


Signs That a Dog is Smelling Depression

Dogs have an incredible ability to provide support to humans when they are in need. They get excited when we are excited and they protect us when we are scared. If our dogs sense a threat, they might get protective and alert. 

Dogs can sense depression, and many of them can respond in a loving way to their humans in order to cheer them up. Dogs use their powerful sense of smell to take in their surroundings. They can also smell hormone production and the rise and fall of different brain chemicals. When we start producing more sweat, dogs can smell that and react accordingly. 

You'll know your dog is smelling that you are depressed when he comforts you and is closer to you than usual. Your dog may approach you in a non-threatening manner. For example, their tail may be lowered instead of active and alert. The dog might put their paw on you as a sign of comfort. Some dogs will know that you need to cuddle and will lean into you in order to support you. 

If your dog knows that you like kisses, they might start giving you kisses and putting their nose on you. Perhaps your dog knows you like playing. If your dog senses that you are depressed, they might get a toy that you play with and try to engage you in a game. 

Body Language

These are some signs you might notice if your dog is smelling depression:

  • Head Tilting
  • Low Tail Carriage
  • Paw Raised
  • Licking

Other Signs

These are some other signs you might notice if your dog is smelling your depression:

  • Playing
  • Leaning Into You
  • Approaching You Slowly

The History of Dogs Smelling Depression


Dogs were not always such intuitive animals. In fact, dogs were not always dogs. First, they were wolves. Wolves were the first animals to be domesticated. Over thousands and thousands of years of evolution, they became dogs. 

Wolves got closer to humans depending on how well they responded to the needs of the humans. The dogs who were more perceptive to human emotions and needs were more likely to continue their bloodline. One of the ways that they were able to predict and accommodate our needs was by using their sense of smell to determine the way humans were feeling. 

They started associating various smells of humans to the emotions that those humans demonstrated. They picked up on all of the things they observed with each of their senses. According to how we looked, sounded, and smelled, dogs began deciphering the many emotions of humans. The dogs who responded appropriately to these cues were given more positive praise and formed stronger connections with their humans. 

Today, there are countless breeds of loving dogs all across the globe. All of them are observant and intuitive animals. They connect to humans and learn by experience. The bond between human and dog is unlike any other, and this has been the case for thousands of years. 

Science of Dogs Smelling Depression


Dogs have an outstanding sense of smell. Their keen sense of smell is their strongest out of their five senses. Their sense of smell is so powerful, some people are convinced they have a sixth sense! 

Dogs are able to smell the production of various hormones and brain chemicals. Some dogs can even smell rises and falls in blood sugar levels, which can be a huge help to people with diabetes. In a similar way, dogs can smell the rise and fall of serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that is associated with depression. 

Dogs can also smell cortisol, which determines our anxiety level. When dogs smell a rise in cortisol, they can react in a comforting way that can decrease anxiety before it really takes hold. In a similar fashion, dogs can create a comforting atmosphere no matter where you are. 

Dogs have 220 million olfactory receptors while humans have just around 5 million. This is a huge difference!

Training a Dog to Smell Depression


Dogs have an innate ability to smell a huge spectrum of smells. They can even smell up to 40 feet underground. In order to best serve their humans, dogs can be trained to react to a variety of different scents. 

When your dog sees your body language as slouched and your facial expressions as distressed, they will also smell the chemicals being released throughout your body. An association between how you smell and how you act will be formed. All of this can happen without much intentional training. As you spend more time with your dog, you will both get to know each other better and will better be able to read each other's emotions. 

There are specially trained dogs that can be of service to those who need an emotional support animal. Emotional support animals are specially trained to meet certain standards according to the type of emotional support they will be providing. Dogs can be trained to create specific associations with specific types of smell. For example, they can hone their ability to smell sweat production and associate that with anxiety. 

Once a dog simply smells anxiety, they can pretend that they need to go to the bathroom so that you have an excuse to leave the room. If your dog is trained to smell depression, they can associate the drop in serotonin with you being sad. Upon sensing your current mental state, dogs can react in a comforting and supportive way. 

Dogs offer a comfort that can't be replaced with anything else. Their special ability to care for their humans gives a stability that is rare and special. They offer unconditional love, and they are a great companion through the ups and downs of life. 

There will always be good days, there will always be bad days. No matter what, dogs are always available to offer an irreplaceable friendship. 

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Written by a Corgi lover Simone DeAngelis

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 03/04/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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