Can Dogs Smell Fear in People and Animals?

dog sniffing

We all know that dogs have a strong sense of smelling better than that of humans.

This strong sense of smell can make dogs detect fear in people and animals.

However, they don’t smell fear rather they sense it through smelling hormones and chemicals that people and animals produce when they are in a state of fear.

They also look at body language and tone of voice to determine whether a person or animal is afraid.

How do dogs smell fear in people?

Dogs sense hormones

Can Dogs Smell Fear in People and Animals? |

Dogs can sense fear but they can’t smell it.

They sense it through identifying a certain body odor that is a result of a release of hormones when you are frightened.

Those hormones are released in urine, tears, sweat, and blood.

So a dog will probably smell this change in you and will notice this change.

Also, according to research, human sweat from physical activities smell different than sweat from anxiety.

Body language

Dogs can read body language easily. They have the ability to just look at your body language and know what you are feeling.

They do so by observing behavior and expressions.

When you are afraid, you may act in an aggressive or tense attitude. Ultimately, this will lead the dog to act aggressively.

Do dogs smell fear in other animals?

Can Dogs Smell Fear in People and Animals? |
Credited: fstoppers

Like with humans, animals can sense the fear in other animals through sensing certain hormones and chemicals that other animals make when they are afraid.

Also through their fearful physical signs, dogs can see the fear in other animals.

One of the strongest indicators is seen in the eyes of other animals.

When they are afraid, they will show the sclera or whites in their eyes by opening their eyes widely.

How do dogs react when they smell fear?

Can Dogs Smell Fear in People and Animals? |

Dogs don’t attack when they see a person who is afraid.

There hasn’t been any evidence to support the claim that dogs attack people who are afraid.

However, they do take caution only when they feel threatened.

So if a dog began to feel anxious or afraid, they are more likely to be very protective of their territory, food, and other resources.

Dogs also don’t like sudden movements and noisy children because it causes them anxiety and fear.

Many dogs also have medical conditions such as skin or bone disorder.

These disorders make them anxious and more likely to be more protective of themselves.

There have been some incidents where children were bitten because of these causes.

Also, if a person is afraid, the dog will become afraid. The dogs will be in a defensive mood and will be extra cautious with the person.

In their mind, dogs think that the person wants to fight them.

The root of the behavior

  • The dog may get insecure around the fearful person and attack. This mainly happens when they haven’t had enough socialization with dogs and people and have been abused.
  • A dog may attack a fearful and weaker dog because of their instinct to maintain the pack as strong as possible.

What are the signs that a dog will become aggressive?

Can Dogs Smell Fear in People and Animals? |

A dog may show signs of aggressiveness such as growling in an aggressive way, showing their teeth, and pulling their ears back.

Do dogs have a strong sense of smell?

Yes, they do have a strong sense of smell that stronger than that of humans. They can detect smells that are ambiguous to the human’s nose.

Difference between the human nose and dog nose

Human nose

People use their nose to inhale and exhale air. Thus, all the smells that we get from inhaling are lost when we exhale.

Dog nose

A dog has two different passages in their nose.

One is used for breathing in and out air while the other is used to store the smell of the scent of people or objects.

Therefore, dogs can store the smell in their nose while they are breathing.

How does their nose help them when they are sensing fear?

Their nose can capture smell and odors that come from human beings. Therefore, they can sense fear in people.

Also, they have a special olfactory system called the vomeronasal organ.

It helps your dog sense human emotions such as fear, happiness, and sadness.

Therefore, a dog knows whether their the person or animal in front of them is dangerous or friendly.

Because dogs are so attached to their dog parents, they will definitely mirror them. So if you are a happy person, your dog will likely be happy.

If you are anxious, your dog will be anxious and cautious around people and other animals.

Why do dogs sensing fear matter?

It matters because it triggers any dog’s action. If you are afraid, there is a possibility that a dog will become aggressive toward you.

It can also become a cycle where a person feels afraid triggering the dog to act either cautionary or aggressive.

However, there has been a study conducted by a group of scientists where they collected sweat from happy and fearful people.

They found out that people who were happy made the dogs approach them because they sensed comfort and happiness.

They were more likely to spend time with strangers and not hide behind their dog parents.

While those who were afraid made dogs feel cautious and spent more time with their dog parents instead of strangers.

What can people do when they are afraid?

Can Dogs Smell Fear in People and Animals? |
Credited: Sbs

Most likely dogs will not be aggressive toward fearful people. They will; however, be cautious and pay attention to them.

There are certain tips that you can do to change the situation.

  • A side-on stand: Don’t face the dog or turn your back to it. Just stand side-on.
  • Stay still: Fold your arms across your chest and stay still. You have to not run away or try to push the dog if it jumps on you.
  • Stay silent: Don’t raise your voice or shout out commands to the dog.
  • Don’t stare directly into their eyes: Keep your gaze up without staring at their eyes. Looking at their eyes is challenging them.
  • Be patient: Wait until the dog calms down and gives you space so you could carry on.

All these tips will keep the dog away from you and they will be less likely to become aggressive or think you are a threat.

Do dogs recognize other emotions in humans?

Dogs can actually recognize other emotions in human beings based on body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice of people.

According to a study led by Hungarian researchers, dogs can understand and recognize human emotions.

By using fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging, on dog’s brains, they found out that dogs have a part of their brain.

This part of their brain can detect emotions through the voices of other humans and dogs.

As a result, many dogs can sense when people are happy or sad. This is one of the main reasons that dogs comfort their dog parents when they are sad.

Also according to a study conducted by a Harvard scientist, he concluded that dogs can sense human emotions.

The reason is that they have been living closely and depending on humans in early times; it is genetically adapted.

What if your dog is afraid?

Can Dogs Smell Fear in People and Animals? |
Credited: den herder vet

Just like humans, dogs can feel fear either mildly or greatly. They can be afraid of certain people, animals, fear anything new and situations.

How dogs act when they are afraid?

  • They can run away from the situation and increase the distance between them and fearful situation.
  • They can freeze and become motionless
  • They may display fidgeting behaviors such as sniffing around, scratching, and eating or drinking water rapidly.
  • Dogs may become aggressive as a way to protect themselves and keep the threat away from them.

Physical signs that your dog is afraid

  • Your dog has a lowered body stance
  • Crouching
  • Looking away or turning their head away
  • Opening up their eyes with the white area showing.
  • Ears flattened against the head.
  • Lips pulled tightly back
  • Having hair raised as a sign that they are aggressive

How to treat a fearful dog?

1.) Exercise

Can Dogs Smell Fear in People and Animals? |

Increase both mental and physical exercises for your dog, at least, an hour.

Through exercising your dog, you ensure the release of endorphins which will support their mental health and make them happy.

2.) Establish a structure and boundaries

By establishing a structure and boundaries, you ensure that your dog will grow confident and gives them stability through a stable environment.

3.) Engage in training

Can Dogs Smell Fear in People and Animals? |

Give your dog basic obedience commands and training that will help them to understand what to do when they are in different situations.

Training must be led through positive reinforcement. Never punish your dog as they will become more fearful.


In conclusion, dogs do sense fear based on their strong sense of smell which helps them know when a person or animal is afraid.

The anatomy of a dog’s nose is different than that of a human nose.

If people are afraid, there are certain tips that they can follow so the dog doesn’t pay attention to them.

If the situation is vice versa that your dog is the one that is afraid, you have to use methods and tips to treat your dog.

To know more about the reasons that your dog is aggressive, check The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Aggressive Dogs.

Share your opinion. Was there a situation where your dog sensed fear in other people and animals? How did they react?

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Welcome to my bio everyone, my name is Nada. Ever since I was little, I have loved animals because they are so loving and kind. All they need is you attention, love, and care but I didn't understand them very well because I didn't get the chance to raise them. Well, That changed when my family and I got our first dog Rocky, a German Shepherd. Rocky was fun and loving with funny quirks. Being loyal and protective of us, he made me see the nature of a German Shepherd. Now, we have another German Shepherd named Mia. She is a wonderful dog and a rescue who just needed a second chance in life. Mia has long grown from being a terrified dog to the brave and caring German Shepherd that she is today. P.S: Here is a picture of our beautiful German Shepherd, Mia.

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