Skip to content

Companion dogs mirror their owners’ stress

  • by
Stressed dog

This doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Researchers from Linkoping University in Sweden have decided that dogs mirror the stress of their owners. They worked this out by measuring the concentration of cortisol (the stress hormone) in a sample of hair from each of the dog and their owner on two occasions. Fifty-eight dogs participated in the study of which there were 33 Shetland sheep dogs and 25 border collies. All the owners were women.

Stressed dog
Stressed dog. Photo in public domain or fair use.

The lead author of the study, Ann-Sophie Sundman, said:

“We found that the levels of long-term cortisol in the dog and its owner were synchronised, such that owners with high cortisol levels have dogs with high cortisol levels, while owners with low cortisol levels have dogs with low cortisol levels.”

They also assessed the personalities of the women and their dogs and found that the dog’s personality had no major effect on stress levels. However, the personality of the owner had a strong effect on the dog in terms of stress.

The reason why this research does not surprise me is because dogs, as are cats, are mammals and as a consequence we share a lot of similarities with respect to physiology. You could almost say that the results are to be expected. However, it appears that this is the first time that it has been shown that emotions of different species living together are synchronised. I have written about cats based on this research because I am convinced that the same can be said about the domestic cat.

The research was published in Scientific Reports and reported on in a hard copy of The Times of June 7 2019.