A New Study Shows That Dogs Feel Stressed When Their Owners Do

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Most dog owners would agree that when you’re having a bad day, nothing cheers you up quite like a smile and a snuggle from your furry four-legged friend. Dogs are there when you need them and provide constant love and support, no questions asked or judgment passed. But now, according to a new study, when a dog owner feels stressed, their pup might feel it, too.

A team of researchers Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden studied how stress levels in dogs are influenced by their owners. According to their findings, published in June 2019, dogs can, in fact, mirror the stress levels of their owners. The researchers followed a group of 58 people who own border collies or Shetland sheepdogs over a period of several months. They measured the concentration of cortisol, a stress hormone, in both the dogs and the humans, and found that the levels were synced. Dog owners with high cortisol levels owned dogs with high cortisol levels, and vice-versa.

Researchers also studied whether or not personality traits can affect stress levels. They found that a dog’s personality does not have a big effect on their own stress, but their owner’s does, further supporting the original hypothesis that dogs mirror their owners’ stress. They still can’t determine what causes the correlation and plan to study more breeds to gather more information.

So, what does it all mean? One day in the future, researchers might be able to determine which dog breeds are a good match for people who are prone to having high levels of stress.

“If we learn more about how different types of dog [sic] are influenced by humans, it will be possible to match dog and owner in a way that is better for both, from a stress-management point of view,” says Lina Roth, senior lecturer of the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology at LiU, the university reports. “It may be that certain breeds are not so deeply affected if their owner has a high stress level.”

Stress is unfortunately inevitable for most people. But the next time you’re stressed, be aware that your dog might be picking up on your negative vibes. Maybe spend some extra time with them to assure them everything is okay. Some extra dog snuggles could be just the thing to lower your cortisol levels.