Effects of Owner–Dog Relationship and Owner Personality on Cortisol Modulation in Human–Dog Dyads
Authors: Schöberl, Iris; Wedl, Manuela; Bauer, Barbara; Day, Jon; Möstl, Erich; Kotrschal, Kurt
Source: Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 1 June 2012, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 199-214(16)
Abstract:The aim of our study was to examine the influence of dyadic attachment, owner and dog personality, and owner gender on stress hormone dynamics in owner–dog dyads. We hypothesized that owner personality modulates dyadic relationships and, hence, would affect the cortisol levels resulting from acute and chronic stressors. Data were collected during three meetings with 10 male and 12 female owners aged 23–68 years, with their medium-to-large, intact male dogs aged 1.5–6.0 years. These owner-dog dyads were observed and video-taped during different tasks. The NEO-FFI (Five-Factor Inventory) was used to determine owner personality, and questionnaires covering owner–dog relationship and attachment were employed. Salivary cortisol levels were measured from samples collected during the dyads' daily routine and after experimental challenges. It was found that our experimental tasks had little effect on the salivary cortisol levels of either dog or owner except that dogs and male owners showed elevated levels during the first 20 minutes of our visit to their homes. However, owners who scaled high in neuroticism (NEO-FFI dimension 1) or low in conscientiousness (NEO-FFI dimension 5) showed high morning salivary cortisol values, in contrast to their dogs, which were low in morning salivary cortisol. In general, dogs of owners who considered them as being “social partners” and “meaningful companions” showed low morning salivary cortisol values. We conclude that the main individual and dyadic factors for stress coping in owner–dog dyads are owner personality, relationship with the dog, and attachment to the dog, and that relationship had generally a greater effect on dog cortisol levels than our experimental tasks.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: June 1, 2012