It’s fair to say that dogs have always been quite good at understanding humans. While a dog’s understanding of english vocabulary is quite limited, that strong emotional bond that they share with their humans allows them to gauge what their human’s might be going through. Now, a new study has suggested that when dog owners go through a stressful period, they’re not alone in feeling the pressure — their dogs feel it too.
Dog owners experiencing long periods of stress can transfer it to their dogs, scientists report in a study published Thursday, June 6 in Scientific Reports.
The Swedish researchers focused on 58 people who own border collies or Shetland sheepdogs. They examined hair from the dog owners and their dogs, looking at the concentrations of a hormone called cortisol, a chemical released into the bloodstream and absorbed by hair follicles in response to stress.
Depression, excessive physical exercise and unemployment are just a few examples of stress that can influence the amount of cortisol found in your hair, said Lina Roth, lead researched of the study.
Roth and her team found that the patterns of cortisol levels in the hair of dog owners closely matched that found in their dogs in both winter and summer months, indicating their stress levels were in sync.
She thinks the owners are influencing the dogs rather than the other way around because several human personality traits appear to affect canine cortisol levels.
The researchers don’t know what causes the synchronisation in cortisol levels between humans and their pups. But a hint might lie in the fact that the link is stronger with competitive dogs than in pet pooches.
The bond formed between owner and competitive dogs during training may increase the canines’ emotional reliance on their owners, she said. That in turn could increase the degree of synchronisation.
Roth and her team plan to investigate whether other dog breeds will react to their owners the same way.
In the meantime, she offered advice to minimize how much stress dog owners may be causing their pets. Dogs that play more show fewer signs of being stressed, she said.
So in the words of this brilliant researcher – “just be with your dog and have fun.”
That sure sounds like advice that the Barking Mad crew have no objections too. We love nothing more than to have lots of fun with our awesome doggies here.