Led by Ann-Sofie Sundman, a team of scientists from Linköping University has analyzed the different lifestyles of dogs and the people that they live with. The study was published in Scientific Reports and came about from the idea that if coexistence between humans tends to cause stress, perhaps coexistence between humans and dogs can also cause stress.
The researches examined 58 dogs (25 Border Collies and 33 Shetland pastors), with the owners and dogs donating their hair samples twice over the space of a few months. The goal was to measure cortisol (a stress hormone) levels. And since physical activity can easily increase cortisol levels, the researchers also examined the physical activity of the dogs.
“We found that long-term cortisol levels in the dog and its owner were synchronized,” Sundman explains in a statement. “So that humans with high cortisol levels had dogs with high cortisol levels, while owners with levels low cortisol dogs have low levels. Surprisingly, we found no significant effect of the dog’s personality on long-term stress. The personality of the owner, on the other hand, had a strong effect. This has led us to suggest that the dog reflects the stress of its owner. ”
This result indicates that if an owner is unhappy or stressed out, that will be transferred to the dog, though more work still needs to be done in this area. In particular, more breeds may need to be examined, along with dogs that are not necessarily domesticated (such as hunting dogs or dogs that are trained to be independent).
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