The idea that a dog takes on the personality of its owner has now received scientific support.
Researchers based in Austria say dogs can mirror the anxiety or negativity of their owners. Dogs that are relaxed and friendly can pass this onto their owners, helping them cope with stress.
The study included over 100 dogs and their owners. They underwent a series of tests, including measurement of heart rate and their response to threat.
Saliva samples were also taken to measure cortisol levels, an indicator of stress.
The owners were then assessed for the big five hallmarks of personality: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The personality of dogs was also assessed with a questionnaire, that the owners answered.
Dr Iris Schubert, said both owners and dogs influenced each other’s coping mechanisms, with the human partner being more influential than the dog.
She went on to say: “Our results nicely fit to experience from practice: owners and dogs are social dyads [a group of two], and they influence each other’s stress coping,”
The study suggested that dogs are sensitive to their owners’ emotional states and could even mirror their emotions.
Dogs have lived alongside humans for more than 30,000 years, and this is the first evidence that suggests they can pick up emotional information from people and then adjust their behaviour accordingly.
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