Dogs mirror stress levels of their owners, study finds

Being stressed will cause your dog to suffer from anxiety too, a study has found.

Researchers at Linköping University in Sweden examined how stress levels in dogs are influenced by lifestyle factors and the people they live with.

The levels were recorded over several months by measuring the concentration of a stress hormone, cortisol, in a few centimetres of hair from the dog and from its owner.

The study, which examined 25 border collies and 33 Shetland sheepdogs, found that there was a correlation between the level of stress in a dog and its owner.

The dog’s personality was not a factor, researchers said, but their owner’s personality had a “strong effect” on the long-term stress of the dog, leaving them to believe that the pet mirrors the human’s stress.

“We found that the levels of long-term cortisol in the dog and its owner were synchronised, such that owners with high cortisol levels have dogs with high cortisol levels, while owners with low cortisol levels have dogs with low levels”, Ann-Sofie Sundman, principal author of the study, said.

The study examined both companion dogs, which tend to be less active, and competing dogs, which usually participate in physical exercise with their owners.

It found that the stress level of competing dogs seems to be linked more strongly with that of the owner, which scientists speculate may be associated with a higher degree of active interaction between the owner and the dog when they compete together.

The idea for the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, came from previous work that showed individuals of the same species can mirror each others’ emotional states – including a correlation between long-term stress in children and in their mothers.The recently published study arose from scientists speculating whether similar mirroring of stress levels over long time periods can also arise between different species, such as between the domesticated dog and humans.

Daily Telegraph.

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