Are we stressing our dogs? – American Kennel Club

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In times of stress, most dog lovers know exactly where to turn: their canine friends. But how does our stress affect our furry best friends? Recent research has some answers.

How Long Term Stress Affects Dogs

For years, studies have shown that dogs are keenly attuned to humans and often reflect their emotions in the most intense moments – something any dog ​​lover who has encountered a sympathetically excited or sad puppy. intuitively knows.

But researchers at Linköping University in Sweden had a different question: how does a human long term Stress Level Affecting Their Canine Companion? Does Chronic Worry Impact Dogs? The vast majority of them have found the answer to be yes.

In a study published in 2019, keynote speaker Lina Roth and her team analyzed the level of cortisol in the hair of 58 dogs and their owners – a test that allowed them to track the level of stress hormones each has. known over time. For this study, the team worked with Border Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs – sheepdogs that were bred to be very cooperative with humans – and asked their owners about various personality traits of themselves and of their puppies. Their discoveries?

In both breeds, the level of cortisol found in dog hair was found to mirror that of humans and to reflect the results of the human personality investigation. In other words: the way dogs feel over time follows that of their humans. “We were actually surprised at how much they seemed to affect each other,” Roth told AKC.org.

Does long term stress affect all dogs the same?

Then the team broadened its horizons. After all, Border Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs were specially bred to be responsive to humans. Is this emotional harmonization simply the result of careful breeding?

In a study published earlier this year, Roth and his team studied dogs at the opposite end of the spectrum of human cooperation: those bred for independent hunting, such as the Dachshund and Norwegian Elk, and ancient breeds that are more closely related to dogs, such as the Shiba. inu and the Siberian husky. Again, they compared the levels of cortisol in the hair of dogs and their owners, and asked owners to fill out questionnaires about themselves and their dogs and their relationship with their dog.

Their discoveries? The owner’s personality affected stress levels in hunting dogs, but not in older breeds. During this time, the relationship between dog and owner affected the stress of all dogs, although the effects were greater in hunting dogs than in older breeds.

Meaning: Dogs’ adaptation to human stress levels increases depending on how close their breed has been developed for human cooperation – but all the personality of dogs is affected by their relationship with their owner.

What does all of this mean for dog owners?

So does this give stressed dog owners another reason to be stressed out? Should we be afraid of exposing our dogs to our worries and woes?

In short: no. Since the study finds that all dogs’ personalities and stress levels are affected by the quality of their relationship with their owners, the biggest lesson is actually the opposite: there are more reasons than ever to bond with your dog. Even better news: It will likely improve your own stress levels as well.

“We know [from earlier studies] that interacting together has beneficial effects on those stress levels, ”says Roth,“ and can actually reduce stress levels – and especially gaming interaction… So that really indicates that if you’re having great interactions with your kids. dogs, this will likely benefit your stress levels.

Another interesting note for dog owners concerned about their puppy’s happiness: the things that stress us out probably don’t bother our dogs in the same way. Roth and his team also looked at the effects of canine stress from various environmental factors, such as if the owner worked part-time, if there were children in the house, and if the dog lived in a house or apartment. “There was no effect of these aspects more related to lifestyle,” says Roth. “So it was only this long-term stress in the owner’s personality that got hold of it so strongly. “

So if you are worried that your dog will not have enough space or that the children will stress him out, know that in the long run, all of this is nothing compared to a simple thing: the quality of your relationship with your dog. dog, and how much time you spend romping around playing together.


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