Your Dog Likes the Way You Smell

Dogs’ noses are thousands of times more sensitive than ours, but what scent will get your dog the most excited?

Your scent, according to researchers at Emory University.

Gregory Berns, director of Emory’s Center for Neuropolicy, led a team of scientists to conduct the first brain-imaging study of dogs responding to biological odors.

The experiment involved 12 dogs of various breeds that had been trained to enter an MRI scanner while awake and unrestrained.

As their brains were scanned, the dogs were presented with five different scents on gauze pads. The scent samples came from the subject dog, a dog the subject hadn’t met, a dog that lived in the same household, a human the subject had never met, and a human that lived in the dog’s household.

All five scents elicited a similar response in the parts of dogs’ brains involved in detecting smells.

However, the responses were much stronger for the scents of familiar humans. Getting a whiff of a familiar dog produced the next strongest brain response.

“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,” Berns said in a news release. “Whether this is based on food, play, innate genetic predisposition or something else remains an area for future investigation.”

Berns was surprised to find that dogs that had received service or therapy training showed greater activation in the caudate region of their brains than dogs that hadn’t.

In humans, the caudate region is associated with decision-making, motivation and emotions.

It’s unclear if this difference is genetic or if it’s a result of the dogs’ training.
“We plan to do further research to determine whether we can use brain-imaging techniques to better identify dogs that are optimal to serve as companion animals for the disabled,” Berns said.

article by Laura Moss

Photo: Michael Nagle/Getty Images


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Debs W.
Debs W2 years ago

confirmed what I can see in my own home. Dogs also recognise your car sound even the neighbour drives the same model and can sense when you are coming home even before they should be able to hear your car and regardless of your timing not being the same every time you go out. Dogs are amazingly in tune with their humans which is why so many of us love them so dearly.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

I think of dogs as unconditional love...

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Interesting. Thanks for the article.

Anne K.
Anne K3 years ago

Thank you!

Laura R.
Laura R3 years ago


Nanette A.
Nanette a3 years ago

Interesting thanks

Catrin K.
Catrin C3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se3 years ago


Marya B.
Marya B3 years ago

I find this hardly surprising. Thanks for confirming my instinctive knowledge of the subject, based also on experience, if not experimentation. :-)