A recent study reveals that dogs link their owner’s scent with positive feelings. Essentially, when a dog senses the smell of someone they are fond of, it triggers a favorable reaction in the part of the dog’s brain associated with pleasure.
Gregory Berns, the scientist leading the study at Emory University in Atlanta, compares the dogs’ reaction to a human’s response to the fragrance of a beloved person’s perfume or cologne.
In the study, the dogs were exposed to five different scents on gauze pads: a familiar human, an unfamiliar human, a dog from the same household, an unfamiliar dog, and their own scent.
The researchers conducted MRIs on the dogs to observe how their brains responded to the various scents. They discovered that the dogs’ caudate nucleus, the brain region associated with positive anticipation, was most stimulated by the scent of the familiar human.
The findings imply that the smell of humans lingers in a dog’s memory, leading them to associate these scents with positive reactions. The brain scans showed that the other four scents did not elicit as strong a response in the dogs, although the scent of the housemate dog ranked second.