Posts tagged with "Dogs"

All shook up: A dog feels its owner’s stress

June 7, 2019

Dogs don’t just love riding in cars: they come along on our emotional journeys, too. In fact, the levels of stress in dogs correlates with the stress of their owners, according to a new study from Linköping University, Sweden,  published on June 6 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Previous work has shown that individuals of the same species can mirror each other’s emotional states. There is, for example, a correlation between long-term stress in children and in their mothers.

But scientists also have speculated whether different species also can reflect each other’s tension—such as humans and dogs.  To answer that question, the Swedish researchers tracked stress levels over several months by measuring the concentration of a stress hormone, cortisol, in a few centimeters of hair from the dog and from its owner.

“We found that the levels of long-term cortisol in the dog and its owner were synchronized, such that owners with high cortisol levels have dogs with high cortisol levels, while owners with low cortisol levels have dogs with low levels,” says Ann-Sofie Sundman of the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM) at LiU, as well as principal author of the study and newly promoted doctor of Ethology.

The study examined 25 border collies and 33 Shetland sheepdogs—all of them, owned by women. The owners and the dogs provided hair samples on two occasions, a few months apart.

Since physical activity can increase cortisol levels, the researchers also wanted to compare companion dogs with dogs that competed in obedience or agility. The physical activity levels of the dogs were therefore recorded for a week using an activity collar.

Previous research has shown that levels of short-term cortisol in saliva rise in a synchronous manner in both the dog and its owner when they compete together. The study presented here, in contrast, found that physical activity in dogs does not affect the long-term cortisol in their hair. On the other hand, the stress level of competing dogs seems to be linked more strongly with that of the owner. The scientists speculate that this may be associated with a higher degree of active interaction between the owner and the dog when they train and compete together.

The dog owners were also asked to complete two validated questionnaires related to their own and their dog’s personality. The researchers investigated whether stress levels are correlated with personality traits.

Surprisingly enough, we found no major effect of the dog’s personality on long-term stress. The personality of the owner, on the other hand, had a strong effect. This has led us to suggest that the dog mirrors its owner’s stress,” says senior lecturer Lina Roth, also at IFM, and principal investigator for the study.

The result suggests that the match between an owner and a dog affects the dog’s stress level. Further studies are, however, needed before we can draw any conclusions about the cause of the correlation. The researchers are now planning to study other breeds. Both the border collie and the Shetland sheepdog are herding dogs, which have been bred to collaborate well with humans and respond accurately and quickly to signals.

The research group is planning to investigate whether a similar synchronization takes place between dogs and humans in, for example, hunting dogs, which have been trained to be independent. Another line of research will look at whether the sex of the owner plays a role.

“If we learn more about how different types of dog are influenced by humans, it will be possible to match dog and owner in a way that is better for both, from a stress-management point of view. It may be that certain breeds are not so deeply affected if their owner has a high stress level,” says Lina Roth.

Research contact: @liu_universitet

Under AB485, California pet stores are constrained to selling rescue animals

January 3, 2019

Retail pet stores in the Golden State no longer are selling pedigreed poodles or Persian cats on their premises. Under a law effective January 1, known as AB 485, they have been constrained to marketing only dogs, cats, and rabbits obtained from animals shelters or rescue organizations—making California the first state in the union to ban the sale of animals raised in so-called “puppy mills” and other “high-volume” animal breeding facilities.

According to a report by The Cut, the new legislation does not affect sales from private breeders—or from person to person.

Specifically, retail pet stores must stock their dogs, cats, and rabbits from a “public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter,” or a rescue group that is “in a cooperative agreement with at least one private or public shelter.” Any store found to be in violation of the law will be fined $500.

“It takes the emphasis off the profit of animals and puts the emphasis back on caring for and getting these cats and dogs a good home,” Californian Mitch Kentdotson told NBC4 Los Angeles when he and his wife visited the San Diego Humane Society to adopt a kitten last week.

The bill is meant to address the crowded inhumane, unhealthy conditions under which pedigreed animals often have been raised.

So who could object? The new law has its critics, including the American Kennel Club which recently released a statement noting that, “anti-breeder animal rights extremists continuously advocate for incremental breeding and sales restrictions that they hope will eventually lead to outright bans on all animal breeding and ownership.”

The club further noted, “In essence, retail pet store bans … remove available consumer protections for new pet owners, limit the ability of pet owners to obtain the appropriate pet for their lifestyle, and potentially increase public health risks (which are not limited to geopolitical state boundaries).”

Patrick O’Donnell (D-70th District), the California Assembly member who introduced the bill, called its passage a “big win” for “four-legged friends,” and noted that it would save California taxpayers millions of dollars on sheltering animals.

As the BBC notes, the ASPCA estimated that 6.5 million pets enter shelters every year, 1.5 million of which are put down.

While the Humane Society has not yet been contacted by any stores wishing to obtain pets, a spokesperson told The Cut that the organization isn’t yet sure if it would partner with pet stores, saying, “We’re not prepared to do that ourselves, because we have a fairly robust adoption program.”

Research contact: @mmaggeler