Dogs worry about their owners

Chronic stress can spread to dogs

Indeed, there is a growing body of scientific publications dealing with the canine ability to read human body language. (How do we enable our pets to live healthy, happy lives?)

This ability developed and refined over the tens of thousands of years while humans and dogs lived side by side. When wolves' descendants were first domesticated, those animals that responded best to human communication - both direct commands and body language - were likely preferred over their more shy counterparts.

However, this sensitivity also has a disadvantage: If we are afraid, our dogs can also become fearful.

Stress factor human

Some people naturally tend to be more nervous, insecure, and more emotionally responsive to stress. Roth hypothesized that dog owners who describe themselves as fearful and nervous could cause chronic stress in their pet.

The team recruited 58 human-dog pairs from Sweden for the study. The animals included 33 Shetland Sheepdogs and 25 Border Collies. Owners completed a questionnaire about their own personality traits and mental health, as well as the personalities of their dogs.

In order to observe the stress level in humans and animals over a period of several months, Roth and her colleagues measured the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol in their hair and fur. (Do human personalities rub off on dogs?)