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Dogs Know If You Are Frightened

Dogs Know If You Are Frightened

reading time: 3 minutes

Dogs Know If You Are Frightened

We have all heard stories of dogs sensing fear in humans. From dogs ”knowing” that an individual is fearful of them and therefore approaching them with caution, and dogs sensing that their owner is tense and uneasy towards another person. 

One explanation is that people fearful of dogs, approach dogs in a way that may make a dog uneasy – A person fearful of dogs probably stares directly at the dog to ensure he or she is safe. This may actually be sensed by dogs as a threat, making the dog more likely to bite. Other behaviours engaged by people fearful of dogs are erratic body movements, louder tones of voices and tensing up, all behaviours that dogs will perceive as threatening or aggressive. Obviously, dogs most likely to react to fearful people moving erratically or tensing up are most likely fearful aggressive dogs or nervous dogs.

Confident dogs that have been well socialised with people from all walks of life are less likely to become aggressive in response to somebody fearful of them, but no generalisations can be made, it can be down to the environment and stress state of the individual dog.

In the case of dogs sensing fear in their owners and picking up on it, there are many cues sent to the dog. 

In dog training, trainers know well how insecurity travels straight down the lead, a dog using its sense of touch to gather the information that it needs. This is why walking with confidence can also change the dog’s emotional state. But what do dogs sense exactly and how? 

One explanation involves the use of a dog’s nose. Canines can smell sweat when people are under stress and even the typical rush of adrenaline, especially when mixed with cortisol, the hormone that is released when a threat response has been triggered… after all, our skin is porous.

Another explanation involves the dog’s hearing. If a search and rescue dogs can sense a human’s heartbeat for up to 75 feet away, it may make sense that a dog may detect the fast paced heartbeat of somebody fearful. The dog as a species has learned through years of hunting that a fast heartbeat in prey is a sign of fear and adrenaline rush. 

There is evidence that a dog can detect the resonation of your cars’ engine from some distance as opposed to other cars on the road, which is why the dog knows when you are coming home long before you have turned into the driveway. Even when faced with two cars of the same make and engine size.

Dogs are equipped with extraordinary senses, along with the capability of reading even the most subtle body language. It is not really surprising that they can detect fear along with all the other moods and emotions commonly expressed by humans.

Many thanks to Adrianne from Paw Management for this great information!

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Dogs are responsive animals, so don’t be alarmed if they pick up on your fear. For any questions, queries, or concerns, contact us on Facebook.