Research has revealed that your pets —such as dogs— can detect your stress levels because our bodies give off specific signals while experiencing certain emotions.
Perhaps, that’s why dogs are fondly called “man’s best friend.”
Dogs are known to expertly sniff out certain human diseases, such as cancer, malaria, and even Parkinson’s disease. They are also known to sniff out when a person is suffering from an epileptic seizure or even narcolepsy episodes. In addition, most dogs have been trained to sniff out low blood sugar levels or when their dependent is about to have a migraine.
A recent study has revealed that dogs can detect an odor associated with a change in compounds found in people. These compounds are known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and are found when people are experiencing psychological stress.
The researchers observed the samples of breath and sweat from non-smokers who had not eaten or drunk anything recently. These samples were collected before and after a stress-inducing activity that is fast-paced arithmetic. The participants who reported a significantly higher stress level were introduced to dogs within three hours.
These dogs were of different breeds and were trained with a clicker-and-kibble method to detect stress. The results showed that the dogs achieved an accuracy of 93% in detecting the participants’ stress levels.
A child psychiatrist and co-founder of children’s mental health app “Little Otter,” Dr. Helen Egger, noted that this finding demonstrates how you can train dogs to respond to distress and human stress.
At the moment, dogs are specifically trained to detect visual signals and not odors that could point to some stressful event or anxiety. However, the ability to identify the tell-tale signs of heightened stress or an anxiety attack could make a world of difference with service dogs. In some cases, you can even train the dogs to fetch medications, calm a person down, get help or soothe their owners through deep pressure therapy.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a clinical psychologist, and neuropsychologist based in New York City, further stated that: the only way dogs that sniff out stress can benefit a person is if the dog undergoes intensive training to know what to do when a human is stressed. The dog will need to be trained to understand the difference between “ordinary” stress and a panic attack or several physical stressors, such as a heart attack or seizure.
Getting a pet has its plethora of benefits because you’re getting a companion and a pet that can save you in times of emergency —literally!