Study suggests your dog may feel it when you’re stressed out

Modesto Morganelli
Giugno 8, 2019

Stress is an unavoidable component of modern life.

New research published in Scientific Report has aligned with that concept, revealing that the stress levels of dogs may reflect the stress levels of people around them, as they mirror our feelings and personalities. When the scientists looked at whether dogs had a garden to play in; the hours the owner worked, and whether the dogs lived with other dogs, they found no effect on dog cortisol levels. Hair gives a longer-term picture of cortisol levels in the body, when compared to something like blood or saliva, the authors argued.

The study, authored by researchers at Linköping University, examined the concentration of cortisol, a stress hormone, in a few centimeters of hair from 33 Shetland sheepdogs, 25 border collies and their respective human owners.

If you think your dog looks stressed out, it might be your own stress levels that are affecting your pet pooch. Our levels of circulating oxytocin - often referred to as the "love hormone" - rise when we gaze into a dog's eyes. The study doesn't suggest, for example, that neurotic humans are causing their dogs to act neurotically, as well.

"It may be that competing owners and their dogs spend more time together engaging in the same tasks", the study reported. "We now know that dogs are also affected by their owners' personalities and stress levels".

The results were fascinating, and complex.

If an owner had high levels of cortisol, so too did their dog, the researchers found. That season affects the cortisol levels of both breeds of dog, being higher in the winter.

Roth's team measured concentrations of cortisol in short strands of hair cut close to the skin in the winter and summer of 2017 and 2018.

The researchers discovered that there was a correlation between the level of stress in a dog and its owner.

For many years, humans attempted to deny that animals could feel emotions, believing that emotion was the thing that separated people from animals. However, it would be nearly impossible to measure the effects of these events on each partner independently of the other, since they are, by definition, closely shared. But what it does show is that regardless of the cause of the stress, our reaction to it impacts our dogs.

Personality traits such as being conscientious seemed to correlate with more stress in dogs, particularly for male dogs, while the owner having a self-declared neurotic personality was related to lower stress levels in male dogs, but higher ones in female dogs. Why is it that dogs are more likely to mirror the behavior of humans rather than the other way around?

It is a little more hard to see the connection between being conscientious and having a more stressed male dog, but it probably depends on the form that the trait takes.

'Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this, and while the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic [mutually beneficial] relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today'. "A person who likes dogs and wants a dog will interact with that dog differently than a person who may be given or exposed to a dog that they don't necessarily want", Strasser says.

Previous research has shown that levels of short-term cortisol in saliva rise in a synchronous manner in both the dog and its owner when they compete together.

Altre relazioniGrafFiotech

Discuti questo articolo

Segui i nostri GIORNALE