Better Than Therapy

Golden retriever puppy arcs her body to grab her tailYou’ve probably heard that dogs can smell fear — that is, they know if you are afraid of them by your scent. It’s increasingly accepted that dogs can sniff out all kinds of physiological changes, ranging from detecting tumors to identifying when a diabetic person’s blood sugar is dropping to cuing in on impending seizures.

So it’s not exactly surprising that your dog can tell if you are stressed — just from your scent. The Washington Post recently described a study that found that dogs are extremely accurate in detecting stress from the scent of a person’s sweat or breath.

Just knowing that their person isn’t enough for most dogs, though. The reason they’re better than therapy is that they nearly always want to do something about it: Offer comfort, make you laugh, do something naughty to distract you… (hi, Orly!).

Speaking of making people laugh, dogs do seem to recognize laughter as positive and try to get their humans to laugh. Orly likes to make me laugh by chasing her tail. She doesn’t just run in circles, though; she grabs her tail, tugs on it until she tips over, then does a little somersault, going ears over tail like a furry doughnut. It’s hard to capture this, first of all because I am laughing too hard, but also because when she sees me get out the phone/camera, she stops doing it. Here’s my best attempt so far: