Dogs wouldn’t be known as “Man’s Best Friend” if they weren’t with us through thick and thin. They’ve been along for our highs and our lows, but how aware are they of the emotional roller coaster that is human existence? Apparently, very aware. A recent study at Linköping University in Sweden found that dogs’ stress levels mirror those of their human counterparts. Both dog and owners’ stress levels were measured using strands of hair that contain cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. When an owner’s cortisol levels are high, the same levels in their dogs rise, too.
Even more intriguing is how the cohabitants’ lifestyles and personalities affect a dog’s stress levels. Environment doesn’t seem to cause more stress, so don’t worry about having a small backyard or staying late at work. Putting your dog through training or competition doesn’t hurt them either. In fact, researchers found competition only makes dogs more aware of their owners’ stress. According to the researchers, this acute awareness was merely a result of increased time spent with their owners.
What does have an effect on a dog’s stress levels is the personality of their owner. Owners who have more neurotic tendencies often seek comfort and companionship with their dogs as a form of stress relief. What researchers found was that when the owner cozies up with their dog, the dog’s stress levels lower too. No wonder John Wick makes time to cuddle his pooch in between his mass killing sprees.
So, you’re probably feeling a little bit guilty for stressing your pup out now, which is totally understandable. This news isn’t a total bummer, though. Thanks to this study, scientists are now beginning to better understand how animals empathize with humans. So next time you’re stressed, make sure to give your dog a hug—they need it as much as you do.