Presentation Title

Shared Hormonal States between Humans and Dogs at Agility Competitions

Presenter Information

Kristen CunninghamFollow

Advisor Information

Rosemary Strasser

Location

Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library

Presentation Type

Poster

Start Date

3-3-2017 2:15 PM

End Date

3-3-2017 3:30 PM

Abstract

Research has produced evidence of affective empathy between humans and pet dogs, indicating that dogs can respond to human emotions through an unconscious process. One of the most interesting correlates of this phenomenon is hormonal synchronization where in the presence of an emotionally stressful event, dogs and humans experience similar increases and/or decreases in hormone levels—specifically cortisol. Previous research in our laboratory suggested potential sex effects where male dogs experience higher levels of synchronization with their handlers in the presence of a stressor in comparison to female dogs. Participants were composed of 23 women who competed in local agility competitions with their dogs (eight females and 15 males). Salivary cortisol measures were collected from both owners and handlers 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after participating in an agility competition. When controlling for the amount of time the dogs had been competing in agility competitions, altered female dogs’ change in cortisol levels did not appear to be predicted by their handlers’ changes in cortisol levels. Unaltered male dogs showed a similar lack of relationship. However, in altered male dogs a trend was found for the handlers’ changes in cortisol levels to predict dogs’ changes in cortisol levels. This mirrors sex effects discovered in previous work from the lab, suggesting an influence of other hormones such as oxytocin (female dogs) and possibly testosterone (unaltered male dogs). This research promotes a better understanding of hormonal synchronization, emphasizing the role of sex effects.

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Mar 3rd, 2:15 PM Mar 3rd, 3:30 PM

Shared Hormonal States between Humans and Dogs at Agility Competitions

Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library

Research has produced evidence of affective empathy between humans and pet dogs, indicating that dogs can respond to human emotions through an unconscious process. One of the most interesting correlates of this phenomenon is hormonal synchronization where in the presence of an emotionally stressful event, dogs and humans experience similar increases and/or decreases in hormone levels—specifically cortisol. Previous research in our laboratory suggested potential sex effects where male dogs experience higher levels of synchronization with their handlers in the presence of a stressor in comparison to female dogs. Participants were composed of 23 women who competed in local agility competitions with their dogs (eight females and 15 males). Salivary cortisol measures were collected from both owners and handlers 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after participating in an agility competition. When controlling for the amount of time the dogs had been competing in agility competitions, altered female dogs’ change in cortisol levels did not appear to be predicted by their handlers’ changes in cortisol levels. Unaltered male dogs showed a similar lack of relationship. However, in altered male dogs a trend was found for the handlers’ changes in cortisol levels to predict dogs’ changes in cortisol levels. This mirrors sex effects discovered in previous work from the lab, suggesting an influence of other hormones such as oxytocin (female dogs) and possibly testosterone (unaltered male dogs). This research promotes a better understanding of hormonal synchronization, emphasizing the role of sex effects.