Pinelli, C., Scandurra, A., Mastellone, V. et al. 2023. Unfamiliar human-induced social buffering effect in kennel-residing Australian Cattle Dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 267, 106039.

The “isolation syndrome” is a term used to describe the stress responses observed in highly social species when they lack social interactions. This syndrome affects various aspects of an individual’s welfare, including hormonal, behavioral, and physiological systems. Dogs, known for their social nature, have been used as a model to study the effects of social buffering provided by conspecifics or humans. This study aims to investigate the social buffering effect of humans on dogs and determine if it is solely associated with bonding or socialization. The study selected Australian Cattle Dogs with limited social interactions with humans, ensuring that no direct bonds or human socialization were involved. The dogs were randomly assigned to either an isolation or social condition, and cortisol levels were measured before and after the tests to evaluate stress responses. The results showed that isolation led to a significant increase in cortisol levels, indicating a stress response. However, in the presence of unfamiliar humans, cortisol levels did not increase significantly, suggesting a lack of stress response. This finding suggests that humans can serve as social buffers for dogs, even without prior bonding or socialization. Therefore, dogs without systematic human socialization still benefited from the presence of unfamiliar humans.

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