You’ve probably heard that puppy owners tend to look like their puppies but have you ever considered that your puppy may begin to stress like you?
Recent studies have found that puppies and their owners are likely to experience synchronised emotions and levels of stress. The effect of this synchronisation is magnified during times of acute stress or excitement. This reveals that during exam times, busy periods at work, or when working with your puppy in competitions and policework, your excess stress may be rubbing off on your puppy.
Its unlikely that this comes as a shock, though. Most puppy owners will be familiar with the way that puppies can sense your emotions and attempt to comfort you in troubled times. The study into canine behaviour followed dogs and their owners over many months to observe changes in levels of stress hormones.
The results of this study suggest that puppies are in fact very sensitive to human stress. This builds on the common belief that puppies can sense and react to human emotions. Lina Roth, professor at Linkoping University and author of the study suggests that “if the owner is stressed, then the puppy is also likely to mirror that stress”.
How Can You Even Know If Your Puppy Is Stressed?
While you may look for behavioural queues to check in on your puppy’s emotions, the researches had a very scientific approach. Along with surveys filled out by the owner, they looked at levels of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol production is related to stress in both puppies and humans. It is incorporated into hair as it grows so researchers can retrospectively analyse the stress levels of puppies and their owners.
Are Competitions Stressing Out My Puppy?
The study of puppy stress levels found that the correlation was higher between owners and puppies which competed together. This could be put down to the fact that these puppies spent more time with their owners practising, travelling, and competing. Alternatively, it could be a result of the potentially closer bond these puppies have with their owners.
Don’t be alarmed, however. The researchers assure owners that their personalities are not harming their puppies. Competing with your puppy is a great way to bond with them. Your puppy is picking up on signs of stress because they want to act as a social support just like you want to be for them, there’s no harm in that.
Can Puppies Affect their Owners Emotions?
A significant implication of this research is whether the emotions of puppies can influence those of their owners. More importantly, how does this affect the role of service dogs and support dogs. Could placing a confident, outgoing puppy in the home of someone who struggles with confidence change their personality over time? Puppy owners know how much joy their pets bring into the home but this research could mean that puppies are even beneficial for owners and their emotions.