Dogs Can Sense Your Fear. But How?

Posted: February 26, 2010 in Uncategorized


How many times have you heard someone say “dogs know what you’re thinking”, or “they can sense fear”, and similar assertions that make dogs seam like some magical creatures who can peer into our deepest thoughts and feelings and they just know…but how?

Are they clairvoyant? Well…sort of.

It really isn’t an exaggeration to say that all those old wive’s tales are absolutely true. But let’s apply a dash of logic and a pinch of science and demystify doggy’s spidey sense.

At a conscious level, humans put a premium on verbal communication. Research shows that only 7% of human communication is in fact verbal (words we say). The rest (92%) is voice inflection and posture. It’s not surprising then that we -nine times out of ten- opt to communicate with our canines using verbal commands. The paradox is that just because we think that’s the best way to communicate with our dogs, it doesn’t mean that dogs agree. In fact, while you’re talking, your dog is “listening” way beyond your words.


First up, dogs can smell what the Rock is cooking.

Doggy sense of smell is (best science can tell) 10000 times more powerful then human’s.

Consider how powerful YOUR sense of smell is at triggering emotional reactions and memories. Researches assert that human sense of smell is the most powerful memory trigger. Dogs and humans are very much alike in many ways, smell as a memory trigger is one example.

Think about the implications.

Dogs can smell the way you feel. If you are upset, your body will perspire ever so slightly, not enough to be visible, not enough to require a shower, but enough for a dog to smell the sweat on you. Sometimes we sweat because we are exercising, sometimes it’s because we are angry, sometimes it’s because we are scared, etc. Our body will engage in different chemical reactions depending on these circumstances and produce a different smelling sweat. Dogs can then use this smell to associate our actions with the smell in the air. It’s a matter of survival for them.

Furthermore, there is more then anecdotal evidence that dogs can tell what diet you’re eating based on your sweat production (meat based or plant based, and if meat, what kind). What implications does this have for your pack hierarchy at home? I would love to get a large sample of meat eaters and vegetarians and see who -on average- has more issues with their canines.

One way in which dogs determine the relative hierarchical position of another dog from a different pack is by the odor the out-of-towner is carrying. The amount of information they transmit to one another during the initial greeting (sniffing buts and face) is staggering and we are learning more and more amazing things about the process every day.


Next up, doggy sense of hearing is ridiculously better then human’s in two ways.

First, they hear further (duh) and second, they hear “wider”.

We all know (I hope) that dogs can hear better then humans. But what we forget is that they can hear a wider range of frequencies as well. This means that they can sense the subtle timber in your voice. If you start paying attention to this, you will “hear” yourself issue commands to your dog with different level of inflection, intensity, conviction, frustration, etc etc. depending on how you feel at the moment. Do you think your dog can tell the difference? You bet.

One thing that dog trainers talk about all the time is consistency. Well, consistency applies to making sure the words you communicate with your dog are at the same frequency level at all times.

To illustrate this, try putting different infliction in your commands and you will notice that your dog will react differently (or not at all).


Last but not least, is the posture and facial expressions.

Doggy body language is massively complex. From head to tail, we are learning more and more as to just how complex doggy body language really is. I talk little bit about this in one of my previous articles

Dogs have lived along side us for thousands of years; and they are very good at reading not only doggy body language but OUR body language as well. They are way better at reading our body language then we are at reading their body language. Let’s change that, shall we?

Your posture will change based on how you feel. If you are feeling proud you will hold your head up high. If you feel sad, you will hang you head…its part of our language.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that your posture can change the way you feel (this is called a feedback loop). 

If you hold your head up high you will start to feel better. If you put a smile on your face, you will start to feel happier. Try it; you’ll see what I mean.

So be aware of the posture and the body language you share with your dog. 

You may have noticed that some dogs are afraid of men folk. Often, this is because men have a more dominating stance and give of a different scent.


In summary, our verbal commands and communication with our dogs take a back seat to the scent we give off, the subtle timber in our voice and our posture. Become more aware of these three as you communicate with your dogs as well as humans. 


Posted via web from Dogan Dogs Video Blogs


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