Stress Buffering Response From Therapy Dog Interaction
This analysis of existing research on the physiological stress response of humans in interacting with their own dogs and/or unfamiliar therapy dogs under similar conditions found that the stress response of owners interacting with their own dogs may extend to others interacting with unknown therapy dogs.
A group of five therapy dog owners interacted with their own dogs, while a group of five other dog owners interacted with an unfamiliar therapy dog. After 30 minutes, each completed a stress task, followed by a 20-minute dog interaction, and then a neutral 60-minute video. Physical stress responses were measured after this exercise.
The results revealed that the therapy dog owner group perceived less stress and anxiety during the intervention than the other group, although greater reductions in physical measures were observed in the other group. In general, positive attitudes towards pets were linked with decreased levels of self-reported stress, salivary cortisol, and systolic blood pressure.
In addition, a buffering effect on the stress responses associated with owners interacting with their dogs may extend to interactions with unfamiliar therapy dogs in other owners, although additional studies are needed to confirm these findings.