Did you know that your mental health can have a serious effect on your furry friend? According to a new article released by NPR, dogs may synchronize their emotional responses with that of their owners. While many pet owners may understand this intuitively, this study was one of the most comprehensive examinations of the source of this bond and the extent to which dogs are influenced by the behaviors of their owners. This means that if your dog senses that you have an elevated heart rate or are breathing faster than normal, they will start to mirror those responses. The study examined by NPR explained that pet responses to their owner stress seemed to coincide more over time. This means that the longer the relationship you have had with your dog, the more likely he or she will be to absorb some of the stress you are projecting.
One of the strongest findings of the study, which surveyed a total of 58 dogs and their owners, was that cortisol levels between owners and their dogs were very closely related. Cortisol is a stress hormone that affects how you sleep as well as your hunger levels throughout the day. One of the nice takeaways from the study is that neurotic owners did not seem to make their dogs more neurotic over time. Nervous pet owners do not necessarily have to worry that they are inflicting psychological or emotional damage on their dogs, even though their dogs notice their responses to stress. Interestingly, the dogs in the study were affected only by the stress responses of their owners and not as easily influenced by the interactions of other dogs. This was true even if the dogs spent a significant amount of time together.
What this study confirms is that pet owners can be sure that their pets are paying attention to their health and stress responses. Pet owners and their dogs may be even more bonded than scientists had previously thought. Pet owners who reported engaging with their dogs on a more regular basis through competitive training or dog shows were shown to have an even more synchronized response to levels of stress with their dogs. This means that those types of activities that encourage interaction between dogs and their owners can have a lasting effect on the depth of the emotional and physical bond that is formed between them over time.