378 Dog’s & Owner’s Stress

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Research by Sundman, Ann-Sofie., Van Poucke, E., Holm, A. S., Faresjo, A., Theodorsson, E., Jensen, P., & Roth, Lina. S. V. (2019).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S. 

Do our pets sense our emotions? When we’re stressed out, are we “contagious” to our dog?

Swedish psychology, medical, biology, and physiology researchers collaborated and studied 58 owners and their dogs. They took a piece of each dog and owner’s hair during summer and winter to analyze hair cortisol concentrations (HCC), a physiological measure of stress. To identify their personalities, the owners completed the Big Five Inventory of human personality traits and for their pet, a Dog Personality Questionnaire. Researchers collected daily routines and training. Using a smart collar for one-week they assessed the dogs’ average activity levels.

Results? When humans’ HCC levels increased, so did their dogs’ stress level. Dogs’ activity levels or training did not affect stress levels but in competitions, the dog had higher HCC stress scores. Dogs’ personality had little effect, but owners who scored high on Neuroticism (tense, anxious), had dogs with higher HCC levels but lower if high on Conscientiousness, or Openness traits. This suggests that dogs mirror their owner’s stress levels.

So next time you are stressed—play or take your dog for a walk for exercise and restoration, or relax, simply pet your dog. You can decrease your own stress level and your dog’s!

Reference:

Sundman, A., Van Poucke, E., Holm, A. S., Faresjo, A., Theodorsson, E., Jensen, P., & Roth, L. S. V. (2019). Long-term stress levels are synchronized in dogs and their owners. Scientific Reports, 9, 1-7.

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About Author

Adele Hall is the administrative assistant for the School of Psychology in charge of uploading the Psychology Science minutes. The authors of the minutes are listed in the written portion. The Psychology Science Minutes are coordinated by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D., faculty emerita, and reviewed by former Dean Mary Beth Kenkel, faculty emerita.

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