Friday, November 15, 2019 by Grace Olson
Positive interactions with dogs help reduce stress levels, study finds. Using fur samples, researchers from Linkoping University from Sweden found that playing with dogs and rewarding them with treats/toys contributed to lower cortisol levels.
Like humans, dogs and other animals also experience stress. When dogs are stressed, they are prone to destructive behavior and excessive defecation and urination. This causes problems inside a household, especially those with children.
Behavioral researchers who explore canine stress encounter a lot of difficulties. It is difficult to gather quantitative data from animals. Unlike humans, they can’t take tests or answer questions.
The breakthrough came when studies revealed that dogs secrete cortisol when under stress – just like humans. Cortisol, commonly known as the “stress hormone,” is a biomarker for stress. Moreover, studies have found that cortisol levels are incorporated in growing hair.
By analyzing fur samples from dogs, researchers would be able to get quantitative data on the level of stress the dogs were feeling.
Equipped with this knowledge, the team of researchers from Sweden set out to study long-term stress levels in dogs.
For the study, the researchers gathered hair samples from 59 German shepherds in January, May, and September. Meanwhile, the dog owners also answered a series of questionnaires. These provided important data on the dogs’ personalities, behaviors, and lifestyles.
The results showed that dogs who had more positive interactions with their owners had significantly lower levels of cortisol. Two of the most prominent positive interactions included “playing with a dog” and “rewarding with a treat/toy when dog behaved correctly.”
“[These] results could reflect that friendly and encouraging relationships are related to less stress in the dogs,” the researchers concluded.
Several studies affirm that having a dog (or a pet, in general) has many positive effects on a person’s overall health. Here are some of the ways that dogs contribute to better health:
Evidently, playing with a dog has positive effects on both pet and owner. The Linkoping study is one of many that highlights the positive effects of dog ownership on a person’s health. Learn more about taking care of your pet at PetHealth.news.