A recent study points to something any pet parent could have told you: cuddling with dogs reduces stress and makes people feel more sociable. In recent years dogs have been recruited for many jobs. They’ve been dispatched at airports to soothe harried travelers, introduced into courtrooms to ease the anxiety of victims, witnesses, and children, and brought to university campuses during finals to lower students’ cortisol levels.
Dogs as Babe Magnets
Besides reducing stress, human beings find people with dogs to be more trustworthy. For this very reason, countless men have taken to including a dog in their dating profile pix on hookup sites like Tinder. When queried, women admit that they’re much more apt to enter into a conversation with men at a park or out in public if they have a dog with them. On the flip side, men have admitted to borrowing dogs specifically for that reason.
Dogs and Healing
Canine companions are regularly brought to hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement centers to cheer the sick, bored, and lonely. The ages of the patients and residents benefitting from their visits span from tiny tots to advanced old age. Exit interviews all confirm the same thing: the interactions were the highlights of their day, and they look forward to returning visits.
Published in the journal PLOS One, the study found that the positive effects of these canine interactions persist after the dogs are no longer present. That means we’re able to coast on that high for a while.
Watching, touching, and petting canines can boost neurons in the prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain that helps regulate emotional interactions. With test subjects, the greatest difference was noted when participants were petting the animals, which was the most interactive condition involved in the research.
Animal-Assisted Clinical Therapy
The study’s lead author, Rahel Marti, stated, “The present study demonstrates prefrontal brain activity in healthy subjects increased with a rise in interactional closeness with a dog or a stuffed animal, but especially in contact with the dog the activation is stronger. This indicates that interactions with a dog might activate more attentional processes and elicit stronger emotional arousal than comparable non-living stimuli.”
Future of Dogs in Therapy
Ultimately, the hope is that learning more about how dogs assist people in coping with stress and depression might eventually lead to the development of better treatments and have significant implications for animal-assisted clinical therapy.
“Integrating animals into therapeutic interventions might therefore be a promising approach for improving emotional involvement and attention,” Marti added.