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Updated at 9:34 ET
If you are neurotic and anxious, your dog may also experience stress.
Numerous studies have shown that dogs and their owners can experience synchronized emotions and stress levels. especially for acutely stressful or exciting activities such as competitions or police work. A new study tracked dogs and their owners for months to examine how stress hormones have changed over time in both animals and humans.
The results suggest that dogs may be very sensitive to human stress. "If the owner is stressed, the dog probably also reflects that stress," explains Lina Roth, a professor at Linköping University in Sweden and author of the study, published today in Nature's Scientific Reports has been. 19659009] Roth and her colleagues interviewed 58 dogs and their owners. Owners answered questions about features such as extraversion, tolerability, neuroticism and openness.
They were also asked to complete surveys that rated their dogs for such characteristics as excitability, responsiveness to exercise, aggression, and anxiety. The researchers then took hair samples from dogs and owners to test for the stress hormone cortisol.
"Cortisol is incorporated into the hair as it grows, giving us a kind of retrospective view of our cortisol secretions," explains Roth.
They found that the cortisol level of the dog reflected the personality traits of their owners.
"It was the owner's personality that influenced the cortisol level of the dog, not the dog's personality itself," says Roth. The correlation was stronger between dogs and owners competing together than between owners and dogs who do not compete.
"When it comes to competing dogs, it could actually be that they spend more time together and this training could increase that emotional closeness," speculates Roth, although she adds that "this is a correlation, so we The mechanism behind it really does not know. "
Roth says she wants to conduct follow-up studies in which more dogs are being studied breeds – this research focused on Border Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs. She is also interested in how the gender of the owner can influence the results. This study included only female owners.
Rosemary Strasser, a behavioral neuroendocrinologist at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, who has studied the connections between dogs and humans, says the new research is exciting and raises further questions about how dogs and humans live emotionally ,
One big question: Could dogs influence human stress over time? Strasser says, "Especially when dogs are used as service or support dogs for individuals, when you place a self-confident, open-minded dog in a home, how does this affect the owner's personality? Is this always in one direction? ? " a very interesting extension of it. "
Earlier research has shown that the personality and attitude of a dog owner can influence how emotionally this person is tied to their pet." A person who likes dogs and wants to have a dog will treat this dog differently as a person who may be exposed to a dog they do not necessarily want, "says Strasser.
Both researchers warn that dog owners should do this. Do not read the new research findings and worry that their personality harms their animals For example, the study does not suggest that neurotic people make their dogs act neurotic.
"I do not think you should fear that you could harm your dog if you're stressed," says Roth. "Instead, your dog is a social support to you and you are a social support to the dog."