Is it true that dogs can recognize a bad person just by smelling them?
You’re standing at the end of a long line for the elevate, eager to get off and head to lunch. After waiting patiently for quite some time, however, you realize there are no available seats left. You spot your friend from college across the way and he waves enthusiastically, so you make your way over to him.
As you approach, however, you notice something odd about him. He smells really weird! His breath stinks like cigarettes or garlic or maybe even rotten eggs. What’s going on here? Is everything okay? Should you say anything?
It turns out your instincts were right to worry. Your friend’s breath smelled pretty foul because he’d recently started smoking marijuana. The scent of pot wafts through the air as soon as you step into the elevator, but you didn’t know this until after entering.
You couldn’t stop yourself from inhaling his secondhand smoke. And now you feel awful for having done so. Luckily, your dog also caught wind of all those skunky odors and figured out exactly whom the culprit was before you did.
How Is This Possible?
Dogs aren’t known for being particularly intuitive creatures, yet many owners swear their pets possess uncanny powers of perception. This ability to sense danger or imminent harm seems to come naturally to dogs, as evidenced by their famous ability to detect cancer in humans. But what would happen if dogs learned how to communicate using another language besides barks and whimpers?
Could our canine friends understand us if they knew English? Or perhaps dogs could use human body language to interpret other people’s emotions. In fact, some experts claim dogs are capable of telling the difference between good and evil.
In this article, we’ll find out if dogs can truly distinguish between good people and bad ones. We’ll take a look at a few different ways animals are said to be able to discern right from wrong, including the idea of “olfaction” (i.e., smelling). For instance, does your pooch pick up on the subtle hints you give off when you think you’re doing something wrong? Find out on the next page.
Does your pet go crazy whenever anyone smokes near him? If so, then chances are pretty good that your pet knows when one of his friends has gotten into the habit of lighting up. That’s because dogs often experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those seen among drug addicts once they break away from their old habits. It usually takes several days of abstinence before these effects disappear, which is why many animal shelters require potential adopters to sign waivers stating they won’t smoke around their new pup.
Canines Smell People’s Culprits
Do dogs’ olfactory senses allow them to differentiate between good and bad people? While scientists haven’t proven this conclusively, they believe it’s entirely plausible. Researchers at the University of California-Davis studied this very subject back in 2003. Their study showed that although wolves don’t seem to care much about morality, dogs definitely do.
The experiment began with four groups of puppies ranging in age from six weeks to five months. Each group had two females and three males. All of the pups lived together during the first month while the researchers observed their behaviors. Then the teams were split into two more groups of either male or female. One group remained with its original sex combination, whereas the other switched. During the final phase, each puppy got to choose which of the two sexes he preferred.
Afterward, the researchers put the puppies through a series of tests meant to assess their moral behavior. For example, in one test, the pups received threats based on their own choices. A majority of the dogs chose to receive treats from the opposite sex than the one they favored most. However, one particular male named Misha seemed to prefer his female partner regardless of her gender preference. When given the choice, Misha gave his female companion preferential treatment.
So what happened? Perhaps Misha liked giving affection? Maybe he wanted to please his owner? Nope. Turns out Misha was trying to avoid getting stepped on. Whenever the researchers offered him a treat, he’d turn his nose away and refuse to accept it. In fact, he avoided any kind of food reward altogether.
Misha wasn’t alone in wanting to keep himself clean. Another female participant named Sasha exhibited a similar aversion to dirty food rewards. She turned down every morsel she received, despite preferring the dish her caregivers prepared. Why did both dogs show such a distaste for dirtier foods?
According to research published in the journal Science, it’s likely due to the presence of bacteria found in unwashed dishes. Since Misha and Sasha refused to eat anything that came directly from their respective bowls, it appears they perceived the food as contaminated.
Some people argue that dogs are inherently good, and therefore unable to discriminate between good and evil. On the contrary, however, there are plenty of examples of dogs recognizing when their owners are lying to them or taking advantage of them. For instance, a woman claimed her German shepherd named Boomer recognized her cheating husband because of the distinctive way he chewed his fingernails.
Although Boomer never expressed his suspicions verbally, he consistently sat beside her while she played cards instead of following her husband wherever he went. Similarly, a New York City couple reported that their Chihuahua, Tilly, wouldn’t let their babysitter within 8 feet of him without barking incessantly. These anecdotes suggest that dogs can indeed smell lies or deceptions.
So far we’ve discussed only situations where the dogs themselves were the perpetrators. Next, we’ll explore what happens when dogs perceive the victims as the guilty parties.
When a human engages in immoral conduct, there’s always the possibility of punishment. Whether it’s jail time, fines, or community service, criminals face consequences for their misdeeds. But what happens when animals commit crimes? If a squirrel steals acorns from a bird feeder, will the birds seek revenge by chasing the squirrel down? Will a coyote harass a fox cub for stealing scraps of meat?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Animals punish others for their wrongdoing in a variety of ways. For example, if a lion attacks a gazelle, the gazelle may try to fight back by kicking at the predator. But what if the gazelle doesn’t want to hurt the lion? Can he tell the difference between the real threat and a false alarm?
Why Do Dogs Recognize Bad Smells?
Many people consider dogs to be their best friends. They love playing games and running around together. Other times, though, dogs need to act as protectors, guiding their owners to safety when they encounter dangerous situations. It stands to reason that if dogs could warn their owners when trouble approaches, they’d prove extremely useful companions. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case.
There are numerous stories of dogs who failed to alert their owners to impending threats. For instance, a young boy walking home from school was attacked and killed by a serial killer. Before his death, however, the boy managed to pull his attacker’s pants down, exposing the man’s genitals. The killer quickly fled, and the victim’s mother discovered the dead child covered in blood. Had the boy alerted his mom sooner, she might have been spared the trauma of discovering her son’s naked corpse.
This tragedy highlights an important point: Dogs tend to associate certain smells with specific events rather than people. For example, if your dog smells gasoline coming from a car driving past the house, he probably won’t bark or growl unless the vehicle suddenly veers toward the curb.
Likewise, if your dog smells smoke coming from a neighbor’s chimney, he probably won’t start barking until the person lights a cigarette. Unlike humans, whose concept of morality involves judging other people’s actions, dogs base their judgments solely on concrete evidence. Therefore, if they see a stranger walk by carrying a gun, they’ll automatically assume that person poses a legitimate threat.
On the flip side, if your dog smells cigarette smoke coming from your favorite sweater, she shouldn’t immediately assume you smoked inside. Instead, ask yourself if you picked up a fresh whiff of nicotine recently. Did you spend a lot of time outdoors? Were you exposed to cigarette smoke at work? Have you visited a smoky restaurant lately? If the answers to any of these questions are yes, then odds are good your dog can smell your cigarette cravings.
Although dogs might not have the same level of consciousness as humans, they still exhibit unique abilities. For instance, dogs are widely believed to possess an innate fear of heights. Back in 1935, a Hungarian hound named Fanni escaped from a circus midway and ran straight up a 30-foot pole.
No problem except for the fact that the ground suddenly dropped away from her at the top. To ensure she wouldn’t plunge to her death, the crowd below held onto her legs. Even today, you can see remnants of her injuries on the fence surrounding the arena where she performed.