Why do we envy pigs’ orgasms? Are left-handed people smarter? When it rains, do the insects die or resist? You’ve probably already asked yourself this kind of question without making a big deal out of it during a walk, in the bath or during a sleepless night. Every week, Explanation answers your questions, from the most existential to the most eccentric. A question? write to [email protected]
Have you ever seen your dog, who is naturally affectionate with almost everyone, snap at someone for no apparent reason? A friend, the messenger, anyone in the street: it doesn’t matter and nothing helps, he doesn’t like her, looks askance at her and can’t sniff her without baring her fangs.
This funny reaction is actually quite normal. Scientists studying the behavior of these animals have revealed this mystery, which is above all a matter of smell. Yes, dogs “smell” a person or not. Literally.
Smells and memories
Smells are crucial information for the dog: they allow him to understand his environment and adapt his behavior accordingly. Sometimes completely undetectable to humans, the vast majority of scents do not escape the scent of canines. It must be said that the odor level exceeds the dog master. And far from it. While humans have about six million olfactory receptors, they have up to 300 million depending on race. Obviously we don’t feel the same way.
This unique property can even be observed on MRIs, reports the science magazine Discover. Instead of our large frontal lobe, dogs have a huge olfactory bulb. A bulb so powerful that it takes up almost 10% of their brain.
Okay, dogs have a great sense of smell. But what does that have to do with today’s question, you say? Smells are actually not just pleasant or unpleasant to them, as is often the case for humans. To them, much more than to us, they matter. They remember them, they record them. Does a perfume sometimes remind you of someone? Imagine the same thing, but thousands of times more intense.
Sometimes a particular smell of a dog can be registered as bad or even dangerous. Although it may seem insignificant to us, it may bring back a painful memory in him. And it is enough that this scent comes from a person, even harmless, for our four-legged friend to have a grudge against it.
would you like an example? Discover offers us one. For example, a dog handler’s dog used to bite some visitors but spare others. After some research, the master realized that the victims had one thing in common: they had all eaten pizza before they came. However, the scent of this Italian specialty was far from harmless to the mastiff. Puppy, a pizza delivery boy, had kicked him, creating this unbreakable link between smell and danger.
Men’s best friend
This amazing ability to detect familiar or new smells does not stop there. Dogs can sense human emotions too. And there again, these smells that we release in spite of ourselves can affect the dog’s reaction.
Sweat secreted by fear or adrenaline, for example, are particularly stressful signals sent to dogs. They can signal a change in human behavior, among other things due to the presence of a threat. Not to mention the fact that dogs can also analyze and interpret our voice and facial expressions. So many qualities that have made this animal man’s best friend that we often like to remember.
According to a Hungarian study published in the scientific journal Current Biology, it is precisely dogs’ ability to capture our emotions in this way that made their domestication possible. We would even share several similarities with them, such as an area at the back of the brain that makes it possible to recognize emotions in the voice, but also facial muscles that, in particular, make it possible to raise the eyebrows. A musculature that, for example, wolves do not possess, which could explain, among other things, why it has not been possible to tame them.
If dogs are so close to humans, it is thanks to this ability that they must understand us, share our sorrows and our joys and thus create unbreakable bonds with us. And if, on the other hand, a dog does not like you when you have done him no wrong, he must turn to your smell, which obviously remains in his face.