The dog nose "KNOWS" fear: Asymmetric nostril use during sniffing at canine and human emotional stimuli

Behav Brain Res. 2016 May 1:304:34-41. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2016.02.011. Epub 2016 Feb 10.


Previous studies have reported striking asymmetries in the nostril use of dogs during sniffing at different emotive stimuli. Here we report, for the first time, that this asymmetry is also manifested during sniffing of both human and canine odours collected during different emotional events. Results showed that during sniffing of conspecific odour collected during a stressful situation (e.g. an "isolation" situation in which a dog was isolated from its owner in an unfamiliar environment) dogs consistently used their right nostril (right hemisphere). On the other hand, dogs consistently used the left nostril to sniff human odours collected during fearful situations (emotion-eliciting movies) and physical stress, suggesting the prevalent activation of the left hemisphere. The opposite bias shown in nostril use during sniffing at canine versus human odours suggests that chemosignals communicate conspecific and heterospecific emotional cues using different sensory pathways.

Keywords: Behaviour; Dog; Emotion; Lateralization; Olfaction; Physiology.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Area Under Curve
  • Dogs / physiology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nose / physiology*
  • Odorants
  • Sex Factors
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telemetry
  • Visual Analog Scale