Anyone who owns a pup knows that a little belly rub goes a long way… so much so that, as it turns out, cuddling a dog is proven to benefit a person’s health, as per a study conducted by the University of British Columbia Okanagan!
Its lead author, Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, explained that canine-assisted intervention programs are ‘a surefire way to reduce stress’. The education program assessed the mental state of 284 undergraduate students before and after they met with a service dog from their Building Academic Retention Through K-9s (BARK) program.
‘There have been a number of studies that have found canine-assisted interventions significantly improve participants’ wellbeing, but there has been little research into what interactions provide the greatest benefits,’ Dr. Binfet stated.
‘We know that spending time with therapy dogs is beneficial, but we didn’t know why.’, he added. Participants were then assigned to one of three treatment conditions: canine interaction treatment conditions, touch or no touch canine interaction, or a handler-only condition where no dog was present.
Researchers also asked the students before and after the interactions to measure their self-perceptions of flourishing, positive and negative affect, social connectedness, happiness, integration into the campus community, stress, homesickness, and loneliness.
As it was found, ‘Results indicate that participants across all conditions experienced enhanced wellbeing on several measures; however, only those in the direct contact condition reported significant improvements on all measures of wellbeing,’.
‘Additionally, direct interactions with therapy dogs through touch elicited greater wellbeing benefits than did no touch/indirect interactions or interactions with only a dog handler. As students potentially return to in-person class on their college campuses this fall and seek ways to keep their stress in check, I’d encourage them to take advantage of the therapy dog visitation program offered.’
‘And once there — be sure to make time for a canine cuddle, that’s a surefire way to reduce stress.’, he added.