A new study suggests that dogs can mirror the stress levels of their owners

By Maria Pasquini
June 10, 2019 04:06 PM
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High stress levels don’t only affect us, but our dogs as well!

In a new study released by Nature‘s Scientific Reports last week, researchers in Sweden compared the long-term stress hormone levels between 58 dogs, a mix of shetland sheepdogs and border collies, and their female owners.

Researchers looked at the corresponding levels of cortisol found in the hair of the dogs and their owners, making measurements in both the winter and the summer.

Additionally, owners were asked to fill out surveys about their own personality traits and also answered questions about their dogs’ behaviors.

The results from the study suggested that dogs “mirror the stress levels of their owners.”

“The human personality traits neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness significantly affected dog HCC [hair cortisol concentrations],” the study noted, adding that the results did not show that physical activity had a significant role on the dogs’ stress levels.

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The study also found that a stronger correlation was found among humans who “compete with their dogs in disciplines such as agility and obedience.”

“When it comes to competing dogs, it could actually be that they spend more time together, and that this training could increase this emotional closeness,” Lina Roth, an author of the study, told NPR.

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Although this news could make some owners concerned about how their own behavior might be hurting their pets, Roth cautions owners not to worry.

“I don’t think you should be anxious that, if you’re stressed, you might harm your dog,” the researcher told NPR, advising that instead owners should think of their dogs as being “a social support for you, and you are a social support for the dog.”

Roth went on to tell ABC News that the strong bond between owners and their pooches could actually help lead to lower stress levels.

“For humans with high scores for neuroticism, the dog may serve as an important source of social support, which might then lead to lower cortisol,” she shared, noting that additional research still needs to be conducted.

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