Dog Owners Mirror Their Pet's Heart Rate, Helping To Reduce Stress

Boy (9-11) hugging labrador puppy, close-up
Anne-Marie Weber via Getty Images
Boy (9-11) hugging labrador puppy, close-up

For years we’ve heard about the health benefits of dog ownership: reduced heart rate, stronger immunity and higher self-esteem.

But new research suggests not only does our heart rate become lower when in the company of our furry friend -- but so too does the dog’s -- to the point where both heart rhythms mirror one another.

The experiment, sponsored by Pedigree, saw three Australian dog owners separated, and then reunited with their pet to see what kind of effect they had on each other’s heart rate.

“There was a really strong coherence in the heart rate pattern of both the owner and dog. Upon being reunited within the first minute, each heart rhythm became almost directly aligned and we saw a reduction straight away,” Mia Cobb, canine scientist and demonstration co-conductor told The Huffington Post Australia.

While a lowered heart rate for the owner was expected, Cobb said the results were surprising and show the way in which both the owner and dog experience reduced levels of stress when in contact with each other.

“This project is a really good illustration of what most owners experience every night when they come home from work and are reunited with their companion,” Cobb said.

Watch the Australian-first #HeartsAligned demonstration (BYO tissues).

But this response isn’t only limited to dogs.

“We could certainly see the same effect with a cat, lizard or bird. It comes back to the kind of personal connection we have with our animals,” Cobb said.

And as far as other people’s pets go, Cobb said we’d likely experience the same response though it is more pronounced when the animal is known to you.

“This kind of effect of experiencing a lowered heart rate makes a significant difference to our overall wellbeing. If we can decrease our heart rate by hanging out with our animals, that’s something that can really benefit the community,” Cobb said.

The #HeartsAligned campaign aims to celebrate the positive bond Australians have with their animals.

Australians are encouraged to share their own dog photos using the official hashtag #HeartsAligned. Each post on Facebook will trigger a $1 donation from Pedigree to national rescue organisation Pet Rescue up to $20,000. The campaign will run until the end of May.

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