Evidence for a synchronization of hormonal states between humans and dogs during competition

Alicia Phillips Buttner, Breanna Thompson, Rosemary Strasser, Jonathan Santo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Social interactions with humans have been shown to influence hormonal processes in dogs, but it is unclear how the hormonal states of humans factor into this relationship. In this study, we explored the associations between changes in the cortisol levels of dogs with humans' hormonal changes, behavior, and perceptions of their performance at an agility competition. A total of 58 dogs and their handlers (44 women, 14 men) provided saliva samples before and after competing. Dogs' saliva samples were later assayed for cortisol and humans' samples for cortisol and testosterone. Following the competition, handler-dog interactions were observed for affiliative and punitive behavior towards their dogs, and handlers completed questionnaires that included personal ratings of their performance. Structural equation modeling revealed that elevations in handlers' cortisol levels were associated with increases in their dogs' cortisol levels. Handlers' affiliative and punitive behaviors towards their dogs following competition were associated with their ratings of their performance, but these variables were unrelated to changes in their own cortisol levels and their dogs', implying their behavior did not mediate the relationship. These findings suggest that changes in the hormonal states were reflected between humans and their dogs, and this relationship was not due to handlers' perceptions of their performance or the behaviors we observed during post-competition social interactions. This study is one of the first to provide evidence for a synchronization of hormonal changes between species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-62
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Agility competition
  • Cortisol
  • Dog
  • Hormonal synchronization
  • Interspecies interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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