Dogs mirror their owners, study finds

Research conducted at the University of Vienna has found that dogs do take after their owners.

The team at the Dept. of Behavioural Biology found that the personality of the owner, including anxiety and negative emotions, can be mirrored in their dog, and if the dog is calm and friendly, this can also influence their humans. 

The study's authors, Iris Schöberl and Kurt Kotrschal, conducted the tests as part of the project "Factors of the human-dog relationship", aimed at understanding the relationship between man and dog. 

Scientists tested 132 family dogs with their owner during various challenging situations, such as games and posed threats. Before and after each test, saliva samples were taken from owner and dog to measure cortisol levels, a marker for stress. The pairs also took part in a personality test. 

Dr Schöberl said owners and dogs influenced each other when it came to stress management, with humans being more influential. Scientists found that dogs showed efficient stress management when their owners were more tolerant, however, owners who showed signs of insecurity had dogs with poorer stress management. 

Iris adds [translated], "Human-dog teams should be considered as a unit: the characteristics of the owner play an important role in how the relationship with the dog is lived and how the dog deals with stressful situations."

The results of this research can be used to help provide a better understanding of the human-dog relationship and improve the practical work between owners and their dogs.