Dogs can tell when you’re stressed out with near perfect accuracy based only on your breath, apparently.
Scientists in the UK got people to do a “fast-paced arithmetic task” to induce a state of “psychological threat”, then tested whether dogs could tell the difference based on just the smell of their breath.
They could, with a stunning 93.75% accuracy.
“This study demonstrates that dogs can discriminate between the breath and sweat taken from humans before and after a stress-inducing task,” the Queen’s University Belfast researchers said.
“This finding tells us that an acute, negative, psychological stress response alters the odour profile of our breath/sweat, and that dogs are able to detect this change in odour.”
The paper, published in PLOS One, says given their “remarkable sense of smell, and their close domestication history with humans, it is possible that they are detecting odours associated with changes within the human body beyond those that have already been established”, such as helping people experiencing panic attacks and PTSD.
The research almost didn’t happen. According to the paper, the researchers initially recruited 20 dogs but most had to drop out. Two couldn’t take part when their owners caught COVID-19, three of them got stressed out, two didn’t learn the rules quick enough and nine didn’t give enough of a shit (“lying down between trials, slow to approach the apparatus”).