Hormones are produced in the body by organs and glands. Think of thyroid, adrenal gland, gonads and intestines. Hormones affect how a person looks, how the body functions, emotions and behavior. This explains why many men take testosterone booster to improve the way they look.
In this article, we look at the influence of different hormones and neurotransmitters on your dog’s behavior.
Hormones and Dog behavior
Behavior is influenced by many aspects. Think of genetic predisposition, learning experiences and environment. So it’s not that simple that you just have to look at the hormone system to understand behavior, but hormones play a major role, in addition to all other aspects, for your dog and yourself. This works the same way with all mammals. Hormones influence how someone feels and that is reflected in behavior. Hormones and behavior are therefore inextricably linked.
There are many more hormones than we describe in this article, we take a closer look at the best known.
1. Adrenaline triggers action
Adrenaline is a stress hormone and is released in situations that are (life) threatening, it is necessary for survival. What does a dog do in a sudden, threatening situation? A dog in distress that has entered a survival mode will either flee (flight) or attack (fight). When a dog experiences too much pressure and tension, there is chronic stress. Too much adrenaline has a negative impact on a dog’s health.
2. Cortisol gives tension
Cortisol has many useful functions, but it is best known as ‘the’ stress hormone. Stress is not necessarily a negative thing. Stress is necessary to survive and make you alert. However, when too many stress moments (fun and annoying) take place in succession, the stress accumulates and it becomes too much. Dogs that experience (or have experienced) a lot of stress have a short fuse and sometimes seem to show aggressive behavior out of the blue. They are clearly irritable and moody.
3. Dopamine Rewards
Dopamine is part of the reward system in the brain. It is the substance that makes you feel good, it is also called the happiness hormone. Dopamine is, as it were, the motor behind intrinsic motivation. In the dog it is mainly linked to his ‘olfactory system’ or sniffing and its rewarding effect.
4. Endorphins Soothes
Endorphins are produced during physical exertion and pain. Endorphins are primarily analgesic and together with dopamine they are partly responsible for the feeling of happiness. A dog produces endorphins during physical exertion, play, food and sexual intercourse.
5. Oxytocin Loves
Oxytocin is also known as the cuddle hormone. It is a hormone that is produced during social contact such as looking, touching, hugging, grooming and sex. In a mother dog, this hormone also plays a role in childbirth, suckling and taking care of the puppies.
6. Serotonin gives a boost
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has a positive effect on your mood. Serotonin also helps against depressive feelings. When serotonin levels are too low, a dog experiences negative feelings. Worry, irritation, sadness and in the long run depression and anxiety.
7. Testosterone dares
Testosterone is perhaps the best known of all. It is often associated with macho behavior and sexuality. It is mainly known as the male hormone, but women also produce testosterone, although to a lesser extent.
Testosterone is more than just a macho hormone. The body desperately needs it to be able to develop in a healthy way. Without testosterone, we would have brittle bones and flabby muscles. A lack of testosterone can also cause concentration problems and depression. This in turn has an effect on behavior.
Testosterone stimulates the sex drive in males and females. Testosterone also makes a dog confident. Is a dog insecure and therefore aggressive towards other dogs? Then it will not help to castrate this dog , because that will make him even more insecure.
8. Estrogen Rocks
Estrogens are known as quintessentially female hormones because they play an important role in the development of the reproductive organs and female body characteristics in women. But the male body also produces this hormone in small quantities.
Obviously, these hormones influence all behavior related to reproduction. During a bitch’s cycle, estrogen levels change and emotions and behavior change with it. During the fertile period, estrogen levels are highest. A bitch can then behave differently than normal; irritable, withdrawn or restless. This differs per bitch. A male can detect when a bitch has a high estrogen level, so this indirectly influences his behavior.