Stressed owner, stressed pet: a formula that does not fail

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When a dog's owner feels stress, the pet also gets stressed, suggests a study published Thursday in the Scientific Reports.

When a dog’s owner feels stress, the pet also gets stressed, suggests a study published Thursday in the Scientific Reports.

The Swedish team of experts studied 58 owners of dogs border collies or Shetland. They examined hairs of people and canines to see the presence of a hormone called cortisol. This is secreted into the bloodstream and absorbed by the hair when the body is under stress.

Stages of depression, unemployment or excessive physical exercise are examples of stress that alter the amount of cortisol in human hair, explained Lina Roth of the University of Linkoping in Sweden.

Roth and his team detected that cortisol levels in the hair of humans and their pets suffered similar ups and downs in the winter and summer months, reflecting that their stress levels were synchronized.

Roth believes that the stress of the human passes to the dog and not vice versa, since there are certain traits of the human personality that apparently affect the level of canine cortisol.

What is the reason for the synchronization between owners and pets?


Experts do not know what causes the synchronization of cortisol levels between pets and owners. But it is possible that there is an indicator in the fact that the correlation is strengthened in cases of competition dogs.

The bond between pet and owner is strengthened when the dog is being trained for a competition, and that could be intensifying the dog’s emotional dependence on the master.

But why does human stress pass to the pet, and not vice versa? Perhaps because the person “is a very important figure in a dog’s life, while humans have other social networks,” Roth said in an email.

The results of the study are not surprising, said Alicia Buttner, director of animal behavior at the Nebraska Humane Society in Omaha.

Several studies have emerged that show that the links between humans and their dogs are so strong that they resemble those of parents with their children,” the expert said in an email.

However, he clarified that it has not been shown that the transfer of feelings flows only in one direction. It may be double track.

“It is not simply to say that if the owner is stressed, then the dog is stressed,” he explained.

There are many factors that can influence the stress level of a person or a dog, said the expert.

Buttner explained that cortisol levels do not necessarily indicate just “bad stress.” They can also indicate a positive experience, such as when the dog knows he will be taken for a walk soon.

The expert advises that one way to reduce the transfer of stress to the dog is to play with the pet. The dogs that play the most show less stress indicators, he said.

Source: Primera Hora

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