Scientific study has found that dogs may pick up their owner’s emotions. Depending on the feeling, this can be good or bad. For example, stress is not an emotion we want to share with our pets, but it may happen. A recent study published in Nature Magazine’s Scientific Reports sheds some light on this phenomenon.
Researchers surveyed 58 dogs and their owners. The owners were asked questions about their traits, including neuroticism. They were also asked to fill out surveys assessing the traits of their dogs. These traits included excitability, aggression, and fearfulness. Both owners and dogs had hair samples taken from them to test for the stress hormone cortisol.
It was found that dog cortisol levels mirrored the personality traits of their owners. This means that dogs with high levels of cortisol in their hair had owners who described themselves as neurotic. The association was between the owner’s personality traits and the dog’s hormones, rather than the dog’s personality. This means that, normally calm dogs may pick up stress from their owners and become stressed themselves.
Right now, the precise mechanism behind the correlation is unknown, but it seems like dogs do pick up their owner’s stress levels.
Sundman, Ann-Sofie, et al. “Long-Term Stress Levels Are Synchronized in Dogs and Their Owners.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 6 June 2019, 6.9(1):7391.