"Dogs can smell who's a good person." Myth or Fact? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 02:35 AM Thread Starter
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"Dogs can smell who's a good person." Myth or Fact?

Alright, I hear this all the time. "I trust a dog when it doesn't like a person." "Dogs can tell who's trustworthy and who isn't."

Okay, I have learned that this forum actually knows their stuff when it comes to dogs and I want this to be validated. Do dogs actually sense who's trustworthy?

I know this is false for shelter dogs as history of abuse shows affects how they perceive people.

When it comes to my boy, he's nice to almost everyone, unless I'm feeling nervous, scared, or intimidated. It's rare to see him agress towards someone. However, he doesn't seem to be a huge fan of when people are standing still with their backs turned or when he can't see their eyes.

I have a feeling that this whole idea just revolves around handler sensitivity. Maybe some dogs can tell their owner doesn't like a person and therefore aggresses or sometimes they have bad intentions and therefore agresses. And this is probably because of handler sensitivity. I mean I don't know I've had some dogs who were friendly to other people not be friendly to me, usually rare but it happens.
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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 07:09 AM
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When people ask if my boy is friendly, we usually answer, "if we are cool with you he is cool with you". He looks to us to see if he is allowed to interact with folks. That being said, dogs need to learn normal human behavior. They need time to watch people and learn how different folks behave. That way if they notice an anomaly they can give their people an alert.

My gal was always walked in public with our big boy as she went through her very young puppy-hood. She took her cues off of our other dog rather than learning about people on her own. I had to start taking her out, just the two of us, so that I could show her people and how I expected her to respond. She is not fond of being touched so she is a No Pet dog. She is much calmer now that she knows, "oh, that is how people act".

There are any number of reasons a dog might not like a person. A young man could smell like the vet. The woman who just got off of the bus could be wearing perfume too strong. The child could have surprise the dog who is focused on something else. They might be able to "smell fear" coming from someone who was bitten when they were a kid. Truly bad people can act completely normal and fool the dog.

That being said, if my dogs act suspicious, I will give that person more scrutiny.

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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 09:05 AM
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I think it can be true. But I also think there are thousands of people taking their dogs word for it when the dog is way off base.

My old male was an extremely steady dog. Absolutely no fear or discomfort about people. He was generally friendly to everyone he was introduced to, and appropriately protective of the family. We had some guys delivering a freezer when my husband was not home. One of the two guys just gave me the worst heebie jeebies. He didn't do or say anything inappropriate, I just felt like the hair on my arms was standing on end.

I asked one of my daughters to hold the dogs leashes for me so I could show them right where I wanted the freezer and when I looked back at my dog he was watching the guy with this deadly look in his eye. I never saw him look at anyone like that before or since. He could have picked up on how I felt toward the guy but I don't think so knowing the dog. my impression was that he too thought this guy was really bad news.

Similar thing with my girl years ago. Before I had the male I had gone hiking with the girls (human kids) and my female gsd. Parked on a dirt access road. As we were loading up to go home she was lying in the shade of the car. A guy drove by in a truck, slowed down, leered at us. My girl jumped up and ran at his truck like she had every intention of pulling him through the window by the arm. TOTALLY out of character for her. He sped up when she did that and she even chased his truck a little. I can't express how out of character the whole thing was for her ever in her whole life she has never run at someone in a vehicle or chased a vehicle. And she came back from that, laid down in the shade again, and a Ranger drive by a few minutes later, slowed down and waved and she had no reaction so it wasn't just any man in a pickup that slowed down by us.

My opinion is, a dog with a really bomb proof temperament who doesn't have incorrect reactions or superstitions to begin with sometimes does recognize the person who has bad intentions, but that temperament to begin with is not the majority of pet dogs out there so the majority of dogs' reactions are nonsense.

My young male has made some wrong assumptions and he is not one I would jump to believe if someone rubbed him the wrong way.
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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 09:09 AM
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I agree with @car2ner, there're lots of reasons why a dog might respond in different ways to a stranger ---- which may or may not have anything at all to do with the stranger her/himself. The dog's age, prior history, lack of training, inexperience with strangers/strange settings, the way the stranger smells and/or behaves (e.g., nervousness/tension), the handler's tension, etc., etc., etc.

While it's nice to think that dogs can suss out a stranger's character (e.g., trustworthiness), I don't think that's what they do. But alert on aspects of the stranger's behavior? Yes. That said, if an older, experienced dog of mine alerts on a stranger, I also pay attention.

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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 09:25 AM
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I cometely think they can sense things.after this past weekend I think cats can too.my normally super friendly cat that loves everyone hid when a guy came in to measure for flooring. I thought the cat was sick. I went backup after the guy left and tbere was the at meowing looking for me to pet hkm. Very odd.

When a dog that normally loves everyone and reacts to a person, I herd that warning.

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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 12:51 PM
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As cowboy's girl said I have no doubt nerve has a role in a reaction factor. I think the different levels of nerve, threshold ,confidence , maturity will affect if and how a dog is uncomfortable with something

If max is watching someone in my mind he is getting a read on someone -he likes to sniff the air if someone passes us as they pass by. If he is intently watching someone that just stands out to him in my mind are for reasons - that car2ner mentions -smells/fears/body chemical differences etc. I know max senses the different interactions with strangers or acquaintances versus good friends & family members. I do know he readily picks up any subconscious cues may I give off. If I'm tense I know he will be to.
Luna does not seemed to be phased by anyone.

Even though vibes can be sometimes misinterpreted by the dog, I have no doubt dogs can sense bad vibes with some one. As was mentioned- I also think dogs can also be fooled by some people with bad intentions. If you have a bad vibe with someone I say trust your gut.

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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 01:43 PM
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Everbody has made good points. I have no doubt that dogs can sense things, it's how they interpret them that is sometimes faulty. I had a door to door saleman come to my door, and when I told I wasn't interested, my very gentle yellow lab started carrying on like a nut. Door to door sales is a difficult job and I think the guy was just mad that I did not let him in the house or purchase anything, but Max read his anger that he was going to hurt me.
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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 02:27 PM
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I think dogs are a lot like people. The nicest person can simply rub you the wrong way. And somethimes a real problem person strikes you as just needing a smiley face.

Back about '62 while I was in college I delivered milk...home delivery. Many stops I had to walk into the kitchen and put the milk in the refrigerator. Yikes yes that was in different time. 7:00 am and the milkman walks into your kitchen! There were lots of laughs. I was only 20 and just trying to make ends meet.

Any way I had routes in a pretty rough steel worker part of town. Probably a third had dogs. From Chawawa to Mastifs. GSD, Dobes and Rottys were probably imports at that time as they were far different shapes and temperaments. Most were a lot bigger than today's versions.

One lady had the biggest solid black GSD I ever ever seen. Her place was a go inside and put the milk in the refer. I hadn't been to her place before so I blindly followed instructions....it said watch out for the dog. Well it was pitch dark out side when I marched up the steps. I walked into the kitchen and just as I was opening the refer this monster black GSD came sliding around the corner. I thought I was dead for sure. But he just leaned against me, so I slowly let him sniff my hand then gently patted him. From there on he was fine often meeting me at the door and following closely to the refer. The regular driver asked how I got along with the black GSD. I said oh just find he's my buddy. He said the lady had to hold him with both hands when he delivered.

I only dog that bit me was a Chawawa. He got me in the ankle one day. I tries to be nice even offering treats but the little **** bit the hand trying to be nice.
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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 07:14 PM
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This is a good illustration of how dogs smell and why they sometimes react aggressively to people or console people. It is from a Ted talk.



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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-18-2017, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Slamdunc View Post
This is a good illustration of how dogs smell and why they sometimes react aggressively to people or console people. It is from a Ted talk.


Very interesting, I thought!
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