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Stressed? Your Dog May Feel It Too
News Bytes 06/12/2019 26 Comments

Dog owners experiencing long bouts of stress can transfer it to their dogs, scientists report in a study published Thursday in Scientific Reports.

A group of Swedish researchers focused on 58 people who own border collies or Shetland sheepdogs. They examined hair from the dog owners and their dogs. The scientists were looking at the concentrations of a hormone called cortisol. This chemical is released into the bloodstream and absorbed by hair follicles in response to stress.

Depression, excessive physical exercise, and unemployment are just a few examples of stress that can influence the amount of cortisol found in your hair, says Lina Roth of Sweden’s Linkoping University.

Roth and her team found that the patterns of cortisol levels in the hair of dog owners closely matched that found in their dogs. The pattern held in both winter and summer months, indicating their stress levels were in sync.

She thinks the owners are influencing the dogs rather than dogs influencing owners.

The researchers don’t know what causes the synchronization in cortisol levels between humans and their pups. But the link is stronger with competitive dogs than in pet pooches. That may provide a hint.

The bond formed between owner and competitive dogs during training may increase the canines’ emotional reliance on their owners, Roth says. That in turn could increase the degree of synchronization.

But why do people influence their dogs rather than vice versa?  Perhaps people are “a more central part of the dog’s life, whereas we humans also have other social networks,” Roth suggested. People go to work, church, school. They invite friends over and go out with others. But dogs get to do social things only when the owner initiates it.

Alicia Buttner wasn’t surprised by the study results. She is director of animal behavior with the Nebraska Humane Society in Omaha. She is not sure the influence goes only one way, however.

“It’s not just as simple as owner gets stressed, dog gets stressed,” Buttner says. Many other factors can affect a person or dog’s stress levels—increasing or dampening them. Buttner also reminds that an increase in cortisol isn’t necessarily a sign of “bad” stress. The body can release cortisol in people or dogs when a good and exciting event is about to take place—like a wedding, or “walkies!”—depending on your perspective.

More study will be done to investigate whether other dog breeds react to their owners like the collies and Shetlands did.

But in the meantime, Roth has some advice to reduce stress: “Just be with your dog and have fun.”

(A Shetland sheepdog at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February pays close attention to its handler. A study published on June 6, 2019, suggests that dog owners experiencing long bouts of stress can transfer that stress to their dogs. AP Photo)

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Most recent comments

My dog (Kona) is always

My dog (Kona) is always stressed. Same with me... maybe she’s stressed because I’m always anxious and stressed! *First comment*


my dog is not stressed but i am lol

this is Asah S,

wow, I didn't know that next time I am stressed I will think of my dog... I wonder if it is the same for cats?


hmm... My dog is never stressed but when my mom getts stress I do!

5th Comment

I haven't realized this about stress but when I am sad my dog usually looks really sad too!

thomas here

emelia g, it has happened to me to and i think i know why. don't doubl click on the save button. oh and asah it probably isn't the same with cats because cats are evil

Huh. I wonder if cats are

Huh. I wonder if cats are somewhat like this too. My cat Wall-e always seems to know when I need him. There have been a couple times when I have been in my room crying because I was upset, and I would hear a meow at my door, and when I opened it Wall-e would walk in and start purring. Sorry if that is at all off topic, just a suggestion.

this is Asah S,

(answer to lena p) my cat has always done that but, none of my other cats do that. how many cats or dogs do you guys have... i have 4

@ Asah S.

My family has two cats, Wall-e and Sam.

@Thomas L

Cats are not evil!

@Emelia G

This is Sarah.

When ever I am sad my dogs eyes look really sad.

@Thomas L

HOW DARE YOU SAY CATS ARE EVIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Why do you think cats are evil, Ben L? I don't think they are evil because everything God created He said was good.

Thomas L.

So what you're saying is that God made something evil?!?!?! He said that what he made was GOOD!!!!!!!!!!! Why do you think cats are evil?

Cainan S.

Sorry, I did NOT mean to be copying what you were saying!!


Guys, could we please stop attacking Thomas L.? While I completely agree with everyone who says that cats are not evil (after all, I have 2. It would be weird if I thought cats were evil), we don't need five people to attack someone because of one comment. And Thomas, next time please be a little nicer about your opinion (unless you were joking, in which case please make it more obvious when you are joking next time. Thank you). Not trying to offend anyone, just trying to stop things before they get out of hand. :-)

Be Nice!!!!

Cats aren't exactly my favorite pets on the planet but I agree with Lena, please be nice

@ Everyone?

Who is Tomas L? he never commented

@Nadia A

He wrote the sixth comment

I agree with Lena P.

I agree with Lena P.

@ Nadia A.

The sixth comment says Ben L., but if you look at the subject line it says "Thomas here." Does that help?

Garrett v


@ Lena P

Oh thank you!


1. cats are not evil!!!

@ Nadia A.

You're welcome, glad I could help :-)

: D

; )

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