Physiological stress reactivity and recovery related to behavioral traits in dogs (Canis familiaris).PLoS One 2019; 14(9):e0222581Plos
This study investigated whether stress responsiveness (in one context) can be used to predict dog behavior in daily life. On two occasions (NT1 = 32 puppies; NT2 = 16 young adults), dogs' physiological stress response after a behavioral test at home was measured in terms of reactivity (10 min post-test) and recovery (40 min post-test) for three salivary markers: cortisol, chromogranin A (CgA) and secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA). For each marker, it was determined whether dogs with a strong physiological response displayed different behavior in daily life compared to dogs with a weaker physiological response. The results revealed three main findings: first, for CgA and cortisol, different patterns were identified according to sample time. High reactivity related to desirable traits, whereas slow recovery after the behavioral test related to undesirable traits. The findings suggest that increased levels of CgA and cortisol 10 minutes after the behavioral test reflected an adaptive stress response, whereas elevated levels 40 minutes after the test reflected unsuccessful coping. Second, patterns for sIgA differed from CgA and cortisol: significant associations were only found with behavioral traits at T2, mostly considered desirable and related to Trainability. Possibly, the delayed reaction pattern of sIgA caused this difference between markers, as sIgA reflects the (secondary) immune response to stress, due to immunosuppressive effects of cortisol. Third, predictive capacity of puppies' physiological stress response (T1) was inconclusive, and contrary relations were found with behavioral traits at T2, suggesting that developmental factors play an important role. This study provides new insights about the relation between stress physiology and behavioral traits, and methodological advice is given to study these patterns further. In conclusion, physiological markers could provide additional insights in dogs' tendencies to display certain behaviors, especially at the young adult stage. Further studies are needed to confirm these patterns.