Two hearts beat as one

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Talk to most dog owners and they’ll agree that nothing beats that pleasure we get when greeted by our pet after a separation.  You could even argue that this outward display of affection, when we return home, is when owners feel at our most ‘loved’ by Fido.  We know that the special connection between dog and owner runs deep, but now a new study shows that this bond runs right to the very heart of matters.

Dog & owner heart rates work in sync

While studies over the years have shown that owning a dog has many health benefits to us humans, both neurologically and physically including a reduced heart rate and boosting our own confidence, results from a new study (funded by Pedigree) has shown that dogs’ hearts also mirror our own.

Now matching and mirroring is something I’ve talked about in the past where body language is concerned, but this experiment has revealed that the very presence of our dogs not only affects us, but that it is a mutual, symbiotic relationship.

The researchers worked with three dog owners and their pets, firstly separating them and then reuniting them, monitoring the test subjects’ heart rates and observing the effects of separation.

The researchers found that, in general, there was a strong unity between the dog and owner’s heart rate.  Yet, when the dogs and owners were reunited after a separation, the dog’s heart rhythm became almost directly aligned with their owners.  The study lead by Mia Cobb, said “there was a reduction in heart rate straightaway.”  While the researchers anticipated there would be a reduction in the heart rate for the owner, the surprise was the way in which both the owner and the dog experienced reduced stress levels when near each other.

Cobb says this bond isn’t unique 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.”

Although this study involved a very small number of test subjects, it does lend further weight to peer-reviewed studies showing the positive impact that a lowered heart rate has on human health, such as reduced anxiety.  This is important stuff when you consider that 1 in 4 of us are said to suffer from stress and anxiety!  You can see this experiment in action by clicking onto the video below.

Following these results, it would be good to see another study on this subject involving a larger number of participants which includes dogs and owners, and people unfamiliar to the dogs, to validate or challenge these initial findings by Cobb and the team.


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