Dogs Get Stressed Out If Their Owners Are Stressed, Research Finds

by : Lucy Connolly on : 07 Jun 2019 15:16
Stressed dogsPixabay/Pexels

Calling all dog owners: next time you come home from work and you’ve had a rough day, go and give your dog a cuddle before doing anything else.

Yes, I know the ice cream is waiting for you in the freezer and a bubble bath (along with some Prosecco) is calling your name, but your pup needs you first.


Why? Because research has found that dogs get stressed out when their owners do, so anytime you feel as though the whole world’s on top of your shoulders, your dog likely does too.


As reported by The Guardian, the study focused on stress hormone cortisol, which circulates in the blood and can be found within strands of hair.

Over time, each strand becomes a record of the stress an individual experiences as the hormone becomes bound to growing hair. Researchers at Linköping University in Sweden decided to compare this hormone in a group of dogs and their female owners.


Twenty five border collies and 33 Shetland sheepdogs were studied alongside their owners, with researchers discovering higher cortisol in human hair was matched with a higher amount of the hormone in dog hair.

Dog stressedPixabay

Lina Roth, an ethologist who led the research, told The Guardian this was the ‘first time we’ve seen a long-term synchronisation in stress levels between members of two different species’.

Roth continued:


We haven’t seen this between humans and dogs before.

The research team measured levels of cortisol in strands of hair in the winter and summer of 2017 and 2018. Although the link between pets and their owners was constant throughout both seasons, it was higher in the winter months.

When the scientists looked at whether the dogs had a garden to play in, the hours the owner worked, and whether the dogs lived with other dogs, they found no effect on dog cortisol levels whatsoever.


However, what did have an effect on the animals’ stress levels was their owners’ personalities – in particular, neuroticism.

The journal in Scientific Reports explains how owners who scored higher on neuroticism tended to have dogs with lower hair cortisol levels. One explanation being that more neurotic owners may seek more comfort from their pets, which subsequently reduces the dog’s stress levels.

The scientists write in the journal:

We suggest that dogs, to a great extent, mirror the stress levels of their owners.


So whatever you do, again, if you’re having a rubbish day go and cuddle your dog. There is a benefit for both owner and pet.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Animals, Dogs, Life, Mental Health, Research, Stress


The Guardian and 1 other
  1. The Guardian

    Dogs mirror stress levels of owners, researchers find

  2. Scientific Reports

    Long-term stress levels are synchronized in dogs and their owners