Dogs mirror stress levels of their owners, study suggests

Are you feeling stressed about the state of the world? Turns out that anxiety could be rubbing off on your dog.

Researchers have been able to confirm what dog owners have sensed for years: Household pets can actually mirror their owners' feelings of stress.

The study analyzed the stress hormone cortisol, which circulates in the blood and leaves its mark in strands of hair.

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Researchers in Sweden examined 25 border collies, 33 Shetland sheepdogs and the female owners to discover that higher cortisol in human hair was matched by more of that hormone in the dog hair.

According to The Guardian, about half of each breed enrolled was involved in regular training and competitions to test skills such as obedience and agility, and the rest of the dogs were regular companion pets, in order to see whether canine lifestyle was a factor in stress levels.

A new study shows that dogs can mirror their owners' feelings of stress.

A new study shows that dogs can mirror their owners' feelings of stress. (iStock)

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to show interspecies synchronization of long-term stress," the researchers write in the study's conclusion.

The team of researchers believe there is more to the synchronization than simply sharing the same environment, The Guardian reports.

The scientists even looked at whether the dogs had a garden to play in and whether they lived with other dogs, but they found no impact on dog cortisol levels from those factors.

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“We suggest that dogs, to a great extent, mirror the stress levels of their owners,” the scientists write in the journal.