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New study shows your stress is contagious

After a long, stressful day, cuddling up on the couch with your pet might be just what the doctor ordered. While there’s a good chance a cuddle session with your favorite furry friend will help cheer you up, they might be feeling just the opposite when you bring stress into your home environment. According to a new study published in Scientific Reports, dog owners who experience stress for long periods at a time can actually transfer their anxiety to their pups.


To conduct the study, researchers analyzed 58 people who own border collies or Shetland sheepdogs. They examined hair from the dogs as well as the owners, looking specifically at concentrations of cortisol. Cortisol — often referred to as the stress hormone — is released into the bloodstream and absorbed by hair follicles in response to stress.

Researchers found that cortisol levels in the hair of dog owners were a close match to the cortisol levels of the hair in their dogs throughout the year. The pattern suggests that the stress levels of dogs and their owners are in sync.

The study also showed that the link was stronger with competitive dogs. While they aren’t exactly sure what causes the synchronization, researchers believe the bond formed between owner and competitive dogs during training may increase dogs’ emotional reliance on their owners.

When it comes to pets, you may have heard the saying, “They might only be a part of your life, but you are their whole life.” While you have other social networks, your pup only has you. You are the central point of your dog’s life, which is why researchers believe the stress influence only works one way — they found that several human personality traits can affect canine cortisol levels.

Previous studies have shown that your pet is able to sense your moods and emotions, so this new study doesn’t necessarily come as a shock. As stressful as your day might be, you can be sure that your loyal canine companion is waiting anxiously to spend time with you when you get home. So whenever possible, try to leave your stress at the door and spend some quality play time with Fido. There’s a 100% chance you won’t regret it.

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