Skip to content

Can Dogs Smell Fear?


Feeling anxious at the thought of meeting your friends new dog? Well, it turns out that the best way to handle it, particularly when it comes to avoiding any unnecessary nips, could be to switch off those nerves and adopt your most confident stance.

A conducted by The University of Liverpool found that people who have heightened levels of anxiety are more likely to be bitten by dogs.

This particular study was conducted on 694 people in 385 households in the UK. All participants were asked if they had ever been bitten by a dog and if they had, whether those bites needed treatment. Each person was asked if they knew the dog which had provided the bite. The study also enquired as to whether each participant was a dog owner themselves.

One in four people stated that they had indeed been bitten by a dog before, and it transpired that men were almost twice as likely to have been the victims of these bites than women. The study also concluded that those who owned several dogs were more than three times as likely to have been bitten as those who didn’t call themselves dog owners. It was also acknowledged that over half of the participants had been bitten by a dog that they were not familiar with.

Doctor Carri Westgarth, Research Fellow in Human-Animal Interactions at the University of Liverpool stated: “Reporting being less emotionally stable was associated with an increased frequency of dog bites.” So it turns out that the behaviour of dogs could well be driven by the initial behaviour of the humans they interact with.

Currently, there are 8.5 million dogs living in the UK and statistics show that more than 6500 people require hospital treatment for dog bite injuries every year in England. The breed most likely to provide that bite? In a potentially surprising revelation, research from pet insurer Animal Friends have indicated that the humble family Labrador claims the top spot.

And the image of the local postie being ravaged as they attempt to deliver your daily post? Well it transpire that this is still very much prevalent. According to research conducted by ,  roughly 14,500 dog attacks took place on postmen and woman over the last five years, with over 2,470 in 2017 alone. This research also found that out of these 2,600 attacks, 36% occurred at the front door, with 35% of them happening in the front garden.

Animal Psychologist, Doctor Roger Mugford, said the best thing for posties to do was befriend the dogs and keep them happy by always carrying a bag of treats. He also stated: “Once a post man befriends a dog, they will be friends for life. To say that dogs can smell fear I am sure is very true. The way we move and the way we think is communicated to a dog.”

Caroline Kisko, secretary for animal welfare organisation The Kennel said that “How dogs react to people is often determined by how people themselves react to dogs, so it is important that people recognise the best ways to interact with dogs and that owners always keep their pets under control and consider that not everyone may feel comfortable being around dogs or know how to interact with them.”

This is not to say that every dog bite is the result of a person with an anxious or nervous disposition as there are various reasons for dog attacks, and ones which result in a person being bitten. Kisko also pointed out that “it is important to remember that any dog is capable of biting just as any dog is capable of being a well-adjusted member of society. It is therefore important that all dogs are properly trained and socialised from an early age to reduce the risk of bad behaviour, including biting.”


We are very sorry, but the browser you are visting us with is outdated and not complient with our website security.

Please upgrade your browser to a modern secure version to view our website.