Feeling stressed? Then your dog probably feels stressed, too

Is your stress affecting your furbaby?
Is your stress affecting your furbaby?

This dog-eat-dog world got you feeling anxious? If so, your canine companion probably feels the same way, new research shows.

A Swedish research team measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in hair samples taken from dogs and their owners.

"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," researcher Ann-Sofie Sundman, of Linkoping University's department of physics, chemistry and biology, said in a university news release.

For the study, Sundman's team took hair samples from 25 border collies and 33 Shetland sheepdogs, all of them owned by women. Dog owners also completed questionnaires about their own and their dog's personalities. The researchers then factored in the dog's activity level, which can increase cortisol levels.

The results

There was no major effect of a dog's individual personality on their long-term stress level. However, the personality of the dog's owner did seem to have a strong effect on their pet's own anxiety level.

That led the researchers to hypothesise that dogs are mirroring their owners' stress levels.

The investigators said that they are planning to study other breeds, to see if a similar connection exists among other types of dogs.

According to researcher Lina Roth, a senior lecturer at the university, "If we learn more about how different types of dogs are influenced by humans, it will be possible to match dog and owner in a way that is better for both, from a stress-management point of view.

"It may be that certain breeds are not so deeply affected if their owner has a high stress level."

The report was published June 6 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Image credit: iStock

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