According to a newly released Swedish study that observed the behavior of 58 herding dogs and their female owners, stress may be differently felt that originally thought. The study showed that the dogs in the study tended to mirror the stress level of their owners, not the other way around. Previous research studies showed that people tend to mirror one another’s stress. That means, for example, that there is a strong connection between stress felt by children and their mothers. But this new study had interesting results, reflected in the published work in Scientific Reports.
In the study, researchers from LiU (also known as Linkoping University) set out to investigate whether stress was mirrored between domesticated dogs and their owners, animals of different species, like it is for those of the same species. The study observed 33 Shetland sheepdogs and 25 border collies who had female owners. The team observed the dogs and their owners by evaluating their stress levels by measuring the stress hormone cortisol. They gathered hair from the dogs and their owners on two occasions over the course of several months.
What they found was quite interesting: the levels of cortisol found in the hair samples for the dog and its owner were identical. This means animals with high cortisol levels are owned by people with the same levels and those with low cortisol have low cortisol owners. Sometimes physical activity can impact cortisol levels, so they were sure to compare dogs and people with higher activity levels by using an activity collar on the dogs. They also realized that the dog’s personality doesn’t have a big impact on cortisol levels, but the personality of their owners does have an impact.
So, what does it all mean? Well, further research is required, but experts believe the information could help inform owners so they select the best dog for their personality.