Dogs' stress levels mirror owners, new study reveals

Must See 11/06/2019

If long hours at work, a twiddling bank account balance, and an endless list of chores are getting you down, your dog may also be having a hard time.

New research published in Scientific Reports on Thursday found that a dog owner's long-term stress level is mirrored by their pooch.

The Swedish researchers looked at 25 people who owned border collies and 33 with Shetland sheepdogs, and took hair from the owners and their animals. All of the dogs lived inside with their owners.

The researchers then analysed the concentration of cortisol in the strands of hair.

Cortisol is a chemical in the bloodstream which is absorbed by hair if the individual is stressed.

By taking samples of hair on two separate occasions, the researchers could identify if the stress levels were in sync between the dog and owner as the human's stress level changed.

The study ultimately found high levels of cortisol in human hair was matched by high levels in dog hair.

"Surprisingly enough, we found no major effect of the dog's personality on long-term stress. The personality of the owner, on the other hand, had a strong effect. This has led us to suggest that the dog mirrors its owner's stress," said researcher Lina Roth.

Personality tests were also undertaken by the owners. The researchers found that individuals with high conscientiousness and honesty had dogs with higher cortisol levels.

But people with high levels of neuroticism had dogs with low cortisol levels - possibly because the owners sought the dog out for comfort and cuddles, calming them.

Further studies will be needed to understand what causes the flow on effect.



Previous studies have found that humans mirror each other's emotional state.