Dogs Mirror Their Owners' Stress Levels, New Study Finds
If early ageing and high blood pressure weren't enough reason to de-stress, then maybe this piece of news will make you listen up: dogs mirror their owners' stress levels, a new study has found.
So, if you're feeling super stressed, then your pooch will most definitely be feeling it, too.
This finding comes from a study of stress hormone cortisol, which circulates in the blood, leaving its mark in strands of hair.
Over time, scientists can analyse people's stress levels through different periods as the cortisol is embedded in the hair.
The Swedish study recruited 25 border collies, 33 Shetland sheepdogs, who all had female owners and lived indoors.
Researchers found that levels of cortisol in human hair were matched by more of the hormone in the dog hair.
"This is the first time we've seen a long-term synchronisation in stress levels between members of two different species," said ethologist Lina Roth, who led Linköping University in Sweden's research. "We haven't seen this between humans and dogs before."
Researchers also found that the link between stress levels in dogs and humans held throughout all seasons, but was higher in the winter for the pets indicating they are in sync.
The study, published in Scientific Reports, looked at whether the animals' lifestyle had an impact on stress levels.
Half of each breed took on regular training and competitions for obedience and agility, while the other half of the pooches were companion pets.
The study found the stress levels in the competing dogs more closely mirrored their owners, which researchers put down to the animals forming stronger bonds through the training sessions.
Roth put forward a suggestion as to why people influence dogs rather than the other way around - perhaps people are "a more central part of the dog's life, whereas we humans also have other social networks," she says.
The idea for the study came from previous work that showed individuals from the same species can mirror each others' emotional states.
Featured Image Credit: Unsplash/Berkay Gumustekin