Contagious emotions: Study suggests dogs mirror owner’s stress levels
01/02/2020 // Arsenio Toledo // Views

When pet owners go through long stressful periods, the emotional bond they have with their dogs makes it easier for the canines to mirror what they're feeling. This is according to Swedish researchers from Linkoping Universitywho measured the presence of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the hair of both the dogs and their owners. (Related: Pet dogs go out of their way to comfort humans they sense are sick or depressed.)

The study, published in the journal Nature, focused on 58 female dog owners who owned either Shetland sheepdogs or border collies. The researchers studied if stress can synchronize in the long-term between dogs and their owners. They did this by measuring and analyzing the concentrations of cortisol in the hair of both the owner and the dog at two separate occasions, during the summer and winter months. Their analysis found that there was a strong connection between the long-term stress levels of humans and their dogs in both samplings, with the two species' cortisol levels seen to sway up and down alongside each other.

The researchers also conducted surveys to figure out the personality traits of both the dogs and their owners. Along with this, they also monitored the activity levels of dogs for a whole week using activity collars. These additional studies found that the levels of physical activity and training sessions dogs had did not affect the concentration of cortisol in their hair. This suggests that while the attitudes of the dogs had little effect on their stress, the personalities of their humans, such as neuroticism, conscientiousness and openness, significantly did.


Furthermore, the study suggests that dogs who go through a lot of training may be more emotionally reliant on their owners. This means that their emotions are more synchronized to that of their owners.

Bond between man and dog

In figuring out why dogs aren't able to influence the emotions of their people, Dr. Lina S.V. Roth, lead author of the study, believes that this is because of their separate social networks. In an email, Roth states that dogs are more reliant on their humans and are a central part of their lives, while that is not the case with most people. Most people will have other humans as part of their network.

Alicia Buttner, director of animal behavior with the Nebraska Humane Society, expresses mild disagreement. She believes that there isn't enough evidence to assume that the influence can only go one way. "It's not just as simple as owner gets stressed, dog gets stressed," she said, believing that many other factors could affect the stress levels of the person and the dog.

Herself a researcher, Buttner previously studied the short-term synchronization of stress between dogs and humans, particularly between handlers and their dogs during physically demanding agility competitions. Buttner's earlier study provided evidence that Roth's team needed to show the coordination of hormonal changes between the species.

Despite these breakthroughs in understanding the relationship between dogs and humans however, Roth and her team still believe that more research is needed. Particularly, they want to investigate whether this emotional connection extends to other dog breeds to see if this bond truly is universal.

In the meantime, Roth offers her own recommendation to minimize the amount of stress dogs may feel: play. She notes that dogs that spend more time playing show fewer signs of being stressed. "Just be with your dog and have fun," she recommends.

Sources include:

Take Action:
Support Natural News by linking to this article from your website.
Permalink to this article:
Embed article link:
Reprinting this article:
Non-commercial use is permitted with credit to (including a clickable link).
Please contact us for more information.
Free Email Alerts
Get independent news alerts on natural cures, food lab tests, cannabis medicine, science, robotics, drones, privacy and more.
App Store
Android App
eTrust Pro Certified

This site is part of the Natural News Network © 2022 All Rights Reserved. Privacy | Terms All content posted on this site is commentary or opinion and is protected under Free Speech. Truth Publishing International, LTD. is not responsible for content written by contributing authors. The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Truth Publishing assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material. Your use of this website indicates your agreement to these terms and those published here. All trademarks, registered trademarks and servicemarks mentioned on this site are the property of their respective owners.

This site uses cookies
Natural News uses cookies to improve your experience on our site. By using this site, you agree to our privacy policy.
Learn More
Get 100% real, uncensored news delivered straight to your inbox
You can unsubscribe at any time. Your email privacy is completely protected.