Dog Noses

Fido’s Nose Knows (and LOVES) You

Scientists have confirmed that you are your dog’s favorite smell, according to research from a new study conducted by the Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University, led by Neuroscientist Gregory Berns.

The noses of pooches in Boston, Worchester, Springfield and Lowell, Mass. can discriminate a number of scents, just like their canine counterparts in the rest of the US, and planet at large.

Findings published online January 2015 in the journal Behavioral Processes revealed that dogs recognize their humans’ scents even when their two-legged companions were not around.

The study used advanced brain imaging on test dogs to prove these findings, according to a recent article in Pet Health by Veterinarian Ernie Ward titled New Study Shows You Are Your Dog’s Favorite Smell.

Berns, who has been studying the way dogs think for several years, gained fame for successfully training dogs to remain still during brain imaging tests. He currently is developing scientific methods to determine if a dog is a good candidate for military or therapy training, the article states.


“His latest investigation involves canine cognition and olfaction. We’ve all experienced the powerful connection between a particular perfume and an emotion. Romance, home, work environments, and foods all involve scents and provoke specific feelings and memories,” writes Ward. “Berns wanted to examine how a dog thinks when smelling, especially because much of their sensory information is derived from odor. He told Jennifer Viegas of Discovery News, “…since dogs are so much more olfactory than humans, their responses would likely be even more powerful than the ones we might have.”’

Ward further stated that according to the ScienceDirect website, where the study is posted, twelve dogs were used, all trained to remain completely still while undergoing an MRI. As the dogs’ brains were scanned, they were presented with five different scent smells:

  • The dog’s own scent
  • An unknown dog
  • A dog that lived with them
  • An unknown human
  • A known human that lived with them

“Because the source of the smell wasn’t present during the testing, the study would also demonstrate sensory memory in dogs. The scents were obtained from highly odiferous body parts: the rear and genital areas of the dogs and the armpits of the humans. In addition, according to Viegas, participants were banned from bathing or using deodorant for 24 hours prior to sampling (pretty smelly science),” he writes.


“…All five scents demonstrated activity in the part of the brain associated with positive expectations. This indicated that the dogs had some recollection and association with each aroma. The strongest emotional responses, those originating in the caudate nucleus, were reserved for scents from familiar humans, followed by the smell of known dogs. In other words, dogs favor family fragrances,” Ward writes. “Dogs that had been trained as service or therapy dogs recorded the greatest responses to human smells. Viegas’ article says this may be due to genetics (service dogs are selected because they possess these attributes or abilities) or perhaps due to stronger bonds created through prolonged training (more human interaction leads to greater recognition and positive feelings).” 

“Berns summarized his findings for Viegas: “Not only did the dogs discriminate the familiar human scent from the others, but they also had a positive association with it. While we might expect that dogs should be highly tuned to the smell of other dogs, it seems that the ‘reward response’ is reserved for their humans. Whether this is based on food, play, innate genetic predisposition or something else remains an area for future investigation.” In other words, dogs prefer the smell of pet parents over other pooches. They don’t call man “dog’s best friend” for nothing.”

Always feel free to discuss any dog-related topic with your local Off Leash K9 Training professional. His or her insight can assist you with canine behavioral issues including dog aggression, food aggression, canine potty training concerns, and canine obedience training!

wags & woofs,

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