Working like a Dog

Is the phrase “working like a dog” scientifically accurate? 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

For ages, humans have bred mutts to hunt, herd and retrieve. Dogs SEEM to enjoy it – but are we actually stressing them out? 

Enter Amanda Höglin and team from Linköping University. They studied over forty dogs from two categories. Hunting dogs, like Dachshunds, bred for work with humans. And more wild wolf-like ancient breeds, like Huskies. 

The researchers surveyed the owners about their dogs and the bond between them. They asked about the personalities of the humans and their canines, and how often they played fetch! Höglin’s team also measured the stress hormone cortisol, found in both owners’ and pets’ hair. 

Results? Based on their stress levels, the researchers found that hunting dogs are more affected by humans than ancient breeds! 

The owner’s personality can affect stress levels in many kinds of dogs. But, there is something about cooperative breeds that lets them synchronize their stress with us!  

And THAT’S why Fido gets a Calgon bubble bath every day. Don’t judge me!

Reference: Höglin, A., Van Poucke, E., Katajamaa, R. et al. Long-term stress in dogs is related to the human–dog relationship and personality traits. Sci Rep 11, 8612 (2021).