Animal

Stroking a dog regularly can ‘significantly’ reduce anxiety, study finds


Animal therapy reduced stress and anxiety in students (Washington State University)

If you want to feel a little less anxious about the world around you, spending time with a canine companion may be the best option.

Research from Washington State University found regular petting and stroking a dog ‘significantly’ reduced anxiety in students.

What’s more, they also found the students’ cognitive skills improved after spending time with therapy dogs.

Students spent four weeks undergoing animal therapy as a means of stress management. This was part of a larger study that took three years to complete and involved 309 students.

The volunteers were assigned to one of three different programmes that featured varying combinations of evidenced-based academic stress management and human—animal interactions.

As the study progressed, researchers measured the student’s executive functioning abilities. Essentially, the skills they used to plan, organise, concentrate and motivate themselves.

‘It’s a really powerful finding,’ said human–animal interaction expert Patricia Pendry of the Washington State University.

Students benefited from time with the canine companions (Washington State University)

Professor Pendry was the author of the study, which was published in the journal AERA Open.

‘This study shows that traditional stress management approaches aren’t as effective for this population as programs that focus on providing opportunities to interact with therapy dogs,’ she said.

‘You can’t learn math just by being chill.

‘But when you are looking at the ability to study, engage, concentrate and take a test, then having the animal aspect is very powerful.’

‘Being calm is helpful for learning especially for those who struggle with stress and learning.’


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