Petting Dogs Helps to Reduce Stress

Science Fields

Dogs. They are our loyal friend. Sure, they scratch doors, are obsessed with licking everything in sight and claim ownership of any furniture they can sleep on. But, a big hug and warm paws on your lap make everything worth it at the end of a long day.

Nowadays, colleges across North America offer therapy dog sessions for stressed-out students. A study published in the journal of Stress and Health suggests that therapy dogs might be helpful in reducing college students’ stress and improve their well-being.

For this study, research assistant Emma Ward-Griffin and colleagues from the University of British Columbia surveyed 246 students to investigate the effects of animal-assisted therapy on psychological health. The students were free to cuddle and pet 12 dogs during the therapy session. They also filled out questionnaires immediately before and after the session and 10- hours post-session.

The findings

The researchers report that students experienced significant reductions in stress immediately after they spent time with the cuddly therapy dogs. Moreover, those who were in the therapy sessions felt happier and more energized than those in the control group who did not spend time with dogs.

Stanley Coren, professor emeritus of psychology at UBC explains that “Even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session.”

While the study highlights the short-term benefits of spending time with therapy dogs, the researchers believe that more research is needed to make sure these effects last for a longer period. Still, the research findings suggest that spending time with these cuddly friends may be especially beneficial for college students during finals.

A final note

Spending time with pets helps to activate the body’s relaxation response. According to UCLA Health (University of California, Los Angeles) animal-assisted therapy research findings, petting animals triggers the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin. These hormones all play a part in feeling good.

Spending time with dogs – or any other animal that gives you that happiness rush – may be a great way to relax before exams.


  • 1. Morrison, L. M. (2007). Health benefits of animal-assisted interventions. Complementary Health Practice Review, 12, 51-62. DOI: 10.1177/1533210107302397
  • 2. https://news.ubc.ca/2018/03/12/sit-stay-heal-study-finds-therapy-dogs-help-stressed-university-students/
  • 3. https://www.uclahealth.org/pac/animal-assisted-therapy