Dogs ( Canis lupus familiaris ) are able to perceive human emotions such as fear and react to them by interpreting the chemical signals that we release, say Italian scientists.
The study of the biologist Biagio D’Aniello and his colleagues at the University of Naples therefore suggests that emotional information can be transmitted between two species by chemical signals, in this case from human to dog.
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Scientists estimate that dog domestication is at least 33,000 years old . It would coincide with the beginnings of agriculture and the emergence of starch-rich waste.
Some variations of two genes explain the ability of dogs to communicate and interact with humans and thus differentiate them from their wild cousins, the wolves.
In the present work, the researchers originally wanted to establish whether human body odors produced in particular emotional conditions, such as happiness and fear, conveyed information detectable by pet dogs (Labradors and Golden Retrievers).
To show it, the Italian team asked a group of participants to watch videos designed to stimulate their emotions – fear, happiness or neutrality.
She then took samples of odors from their armpits, as well as those of volunteers who had not seen the sequences.
The research team then placed the animals with their owner and with a stranger in a room in which an odor diffuser had been installed and dogs could move freely. The smells were then diffused into space.
The behavior and heart rate of the animals were analyzed.
The results indicate that dogs exhibited less homeowner and more outward-looking behaviors when they were in “good olfactory condition” associated with happiness compared to the scent associated with fear and a neutral scent.
In addition, for the smell associated with fear, dogs exhibited more stress-related behaviors. Their heart rate compared to that found for the neutral scent or smell associated with happiness was slower than under the conditions of fear.
In addition, dogs that interacted during the spread of the scent of fear sought reassurance from their masters and had less social contact with the stranger.
We already knew that a dog can feel human emotions . In 2014 and 2016, European and Brazilian studies had shown it.
But no study had been done specifically on the use of smell by dogs to get there.
The authors of the research published in the journal Animal Cognition (New Window ) explain that dogs have an olfactory system more developed than humans. It is therefore logical for them to use this ability to gather information about the world around them.
Phyllis Reddon is a general assignment reporter at Rise Media. She has covered sports, entertainment and many other beats in her journalism career, and has lived in New York for more than 6 years. Phyllis has appeared periodically on national television shows and has been published in (among others) Yahoo News,, Politico, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Wired.com, Vice and Salon.com.