Do Dogs Help Humans Reduce Stress?
Studies show that interactions with therapy animals can decrease stress in humans. Playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol. These hormonal changes can help alleviate stress in many people. For example, a nervous child may feel more relaxed about reading aloud.
Reduced stress can also benefit physical health. In a 2001 study, researchers found that pet-owning patients with high blood pressure could keep their blood pressure lower during times of mental stress than patients without pets.
Both pet ownership and social support are significant predictors of survival, regardless of the effects of the other psychosocial factors and physiologic status.
In 2008, a group of Italian researchers documented the successful introduction of a shelter dog to Alzheimer’s patients. Patients were given questionnaires, and many responded that animal-assisted activities (the dog as a therapy animal) was beneficial.
Another study shows that pet owners may also have increased odds of surviving for at least a year after having a heart attack.
Tutoring companies that introduce kids to dogs, show that children with reading difficulties are more willing to read in the presence of a therapy dog.
“What is so therapeutic about dogs is that they offer us an abundance or love and no judgement whatsoever” saids dog trainer, Yuruani Olguin.