New Study Finds Dogs Mirror the Stress Levels of Their Owners
Those nerves are definitely affecting Fido.
If you’re a dog owner, you know that your pup tends to be extra anxious when you only have time for a quick walk. And isn’t it weird how as soon as you identify a particular person on the street as suspicious, Fido starts barking at them incessantly? Well, it turns out that’s actually no coincidence—it’s science. According to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, dogs get stressed when their owners are stressed, hence the nerves and the barking.
Researchers at Linkoping University in Sweden asked 58 female owners of border collies and Shetland sheepdogs to fill out questionnaires about their “Big Five” personality traits—extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism—as well as traits of their dogs. The scientists then collected samples of the stress hormone cortisol from the hair of both the dogs and the humans in both the summer and the winter. What they found was that regardless of what the dogs’ overall personality was like, the stress levels of the dogs closely matched those of their owners.
“If the owner is stressed, then the dog is also likely to mirror that stress,” Lina Roth, a professor at Linkoping University and co-author of the study, told NPR. “It was the owner’s personality that influenced the dog’s hair cortisol level, rather than the dog’s personality itself.”
It’s also interesting to note that the degree to which the human-canine stress levels matched up was higher among dogs and owners who take part in competitions together, which Roth speculates may be because “they spend more time together.” “This training could [also] increase this emotional closeness,” Roth told NPR, meaning that there’s a possibility that the more you bond with your dog in general, the more your stress levels affect your trusty pup.
The good news is, knowing that your anxiety significantly affects your dog can provide the inspiration you need to learn how to manage your own levels of stress. It’s just one of the many ways dogs positively affect humans’ health every day.
And for more on just how strong the bond is between dogs and their owners, check out Science Says Your Dog Adopts Your Personality Over Time.
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