Stressed? Your pet may feel it also, study says

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - NATION - By Jeremy Rehm Jeremy Rehm is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

NEW YORK — When dog own­ers go through a stress­ful pe­riod, they’re not alone in feel­ing the pres­sure — their dogs feel it too, a new study sug­gests.

Dog own­ers ex­pe­ri­enc­ing long bouts of stress can trans­fer it to their dogs, sci­en­tists re­port in a study pub­lished Thurs­day in Sci­en­tific Re­ports.

The Swedish re­searchers fo­cused on 58 peo­ple who own bor­der col­lies or Shet­land sheep­dogs. They ex­am­ined hair from the dog own­ers and their dogs, look­ing at the con­cen­tra­tions of a hor­mone called cortisol, a chem­i­cal re­leased into the blood­stream and ab­sorbed by hair fol­li­cles in re­sponse to stress.

De­pres­sion, ex­ces­sive phys­i­cal ex­er­cise and un­em­ploy­ment are just a few ex­am­ples of stress that can in­flu­ence the amount of cortisol found in your hair, said Lina Roth of Linkop­ing Univer­sity in Swe­den.

Roth and her team found that the pat­terns of cortisol lev­els in the hair of dog own­ers closely matched that found in their dogs in both win­ter and sum­mer months, in­di­cat­ing their stress lev­els were in sync.

She thinks the own­ers are in­flu­enc­ing the dogs rather than the other way around be­cause sev­eral hu­man per­son­al­ity traits ap­pear to af­fect ca­nine cortisol lev­els.

The study re­sults are no sur­prise, said Ali­cia But­tner, direc­tor of an­i­mal be­hav­ior with the Ne­braska Hu­mane So­ci­ety in Omaha.

“New ev­i­dence is con­tin­u­ally emerg­ing, show­ing that peo­ple and their dogs have in­cred­i­bly close bonds that re­sem­ble the ones that par­ents share with their chil­dren,” she said in an email.

But she said there isn’t enough ev­i­dence to as­sume that the in­flu­ence goes only one way; it may go both ways.

“It’s not just as sim­ple as owner gets stressed, dog gets stressed,” she said.

Many other fac­tors could af­fect a per­son or dog’s stress lev­els and pos­si­bly even dampen them, she said.

Wong Maye-E / As­so­ci­ated Press

Swedish re­searchers fo­cused on 58 peo­ple who own bor­der col­lies or Shet­land sheep­dogs. They dis­cov­ered that dog own­ers ex­pe­ri­enc­ing long bouts of stress can trans­fer it to their dogs.

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