Dogs Mirror Owners' Stress Levels, Research Finds

It’s always been established that humans have a fair amount of knowledge when it comes to understanding our their loyal four-legged companions feel. But have you ever wondered if dogs feel the same way about us? If the back and forth wagging of their tails is a sign that they’re feeling how excited we are? Or, if that same tail tucked between their hind legs means that they’re feeling just as down as us?

Of course, some things don’t always need a scientific explanation, and most dog owners would have figured it out themselves. But new research just proves what most people probably already know: our pets are not oblivious to our worries. Not only that, they also have a tendency to mirror the amount of stress that we have.

A two-way relationship

These results come from carefully studying cortisol, which is a stress hormone that leaves its mark in hair strands and circulates our blood. As the hormone joins itself with a hair strand, the shaft becomes sort of a biological “file cabinet” over time, recording the amount of stress that a person feels.

The study was then done on a number of dogs that live indoors with their owners. These include 33 Shetland Sheepdogs, 25 border collies and their female owners.

After engaging with them, the researchers found that the hormones in the dogs’ hair matched those of their owners if they have a higher cortisol level.

Lina Roth, an ethologist who led the study, said that this is the first time that they’ve seen an instance of long-term synchronization in stress levels between two members of different species, especially one as close and even personal as this. “We haven’t seen this in dogs and humans before,” she added.

The study also found that not only do dogs sympathize with their owners’ distress and stress levels, they are also affected by their personalities, most likely because of the closer bond that has been established.

Published in Scientific Reports, the new study adds to a growing body of research made on the relationship dogs have with humans.

Dog Face After seeing arousing emotional states in human faces, the dogs experienced an increased heart rate and took longer to resume eating their food. PxHere