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Article

Hormonal and Neurological Aspects of Dog Walking for Dog Owners and Pet Dogs

1
Department of Animal Health Technology, Yamazaki University of Animal Health Technology, Tokyo 192-0364, Japan
2
School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Sagamihara-shi 252-5201, Japan
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Polly Yeung
Animals 2021, 11(9), 2732; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092732
Received: 27 July 2021 / Revised: 3 September 2021 / Accepted: 15 September 2021 / Published: 18 September 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Mental Health: Human–Animal Interaction)
Introduction: Dog walking is a common activity for dog owners and their dogs. We investigated the effects of dog walking on both owners and dogs, focusing on salivary oxytocin and cortisol (Experiment I) and brain neural activity (Experiment II). Methods: We collected saliva samples from 34 pairs of pet dogs and their owners at four time points (before dog walking, 15 min into the walk, at the end of the 30 min walk, and 10 min after the end of the walk). As a control, we assessed dog owners who took a walk without their dogs. We measured salivary oxytocin and cortisol with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kits, monoamines, and GABA with high performance liquid chromatography. Results: In Experiment I, walking with a dog, relative to walking without a dog, did not affect the owners’ salivary oxytocin and cortisol, as in previous research. However, in Experiment II, walking with a dog decreased the owners’ salivary MHPG compared to walking without a dog. MHPG correlated negatively with GABAergic activity. Discussion and Conclusions: Dog walking did not boost the owners’ salivary oxytocin or cortisol but did inhibit brain noradrenergic nerves via GABA activity, suggesting stress relief.
The hormone oxytocin is involved in various aspects of the relationship between humans and animals. Dog walking is a common activity for dog owners and their dogs. The walk, of course, should be good for the health of the dog as well as its owner. In Experiment I, we assessed whether salivary oxytocin and cortisol in dog owners changed because of walking their dogs. Ten owners walked with their dogs and walked alone. Similar to other previous research, walking with a dog did not significantly change oxytocin and cortisol. Therefore, in Experiment II, we investigated the effect of dog walking on brain noradrenergic and GABAergic neural activity, as indicated by salivary MHPG and GABA, in 14 dog owners. Walking with a dog reduced salivary MHPG compared to walking alone, and MHPG was correlated negatively with GABA. Thus, dog walking activated GABAergic nerves in the brain and suppressed noradrenergic nerves, effectively relieving stress. View Full-Text
Keywords: walk; dog owners; pet dogs; saliva; oxytocin; MHPG; GABA walk; dog owners; pet dogs; saliva; oxytocin; MHPG; GABA
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MDPI and ACS Style

Akiyama, J.; Ohta, M. Hormonal and Neurological Aspects of Dog Walking for Dog Owners and Pet Dogs. Animals 2021, 11, 2732. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092732

AMA Style

Akiyama J, Ohta M. Hormonal and Neurological Aspects of Dog Walking for Dog Owners and Pet Dogs. Animals. 2021; 11(9):2732. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092732

Chicago/Turabian Style

Akiyama, Junko, and Mitsuaki Ohta. 2021. "Hormonal and Neurological Aspects of Dog Walking for Dog Owners and Pet Dogs" Animals 11, no. 9: 2732. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092732

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