Behaviour 2019
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Domestic dogs may have the ability to discriminate putative human anxiety and stress volatiles.
Simon Gadbois1, Kelly Forrester1, Catherine Reeve1, 2. 1Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; 2Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

A growing body of research suggests that dogs can detect olfactory cues associated with physiological change. Dogs’ ability to detect volatiles associated with stress and anxiety (S/A) has not been specifically examined. We examined dogs’ ability to discriminate between S/A and non-S/A odour cues from human breath and sweat samples. Four volunteer dogs participated. Breath and sweat samples were donated by university students before a lecture (non-S/A) and an exam (S/A). The dogs’ ability to discriminate between samples was tested using an alternative forced choice procedure. Binomial tests revealed variability in individual dogs’ performance. Two dogs discriminated between conditions on both breath and sweat samples above chance. A third discriminated between conditions on breath samples above chance. The fourth discriminated between conditions on sweat samples above chance. Our findings suggest that dogs may be able to discriminate putative volatiles in human breath and sweat associated with feeling stressed/anxious. Physiological underpinnings of this process will be discussed, as well as possible cases of dogs naturally alerting to states on which they were not trained.