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03-14-2024

Interactions with dogs relieve stress and heighten concentration

A recent study led by Konkuk University in South Korea has found that spending time with dogs can significantly alleviate stress and enhance brainwave patterns linked to relaxation and focus.

In healthcare and education, animal-assisted interventions (AAI), particularly those involving dogs, have become popular for their stress-relieving and trust-building benefits. 

Advantages of interacting with animals

Previous research into the advantages of interacting with animals typically examines the overall effects on mood or hormone levels before and after engagement with a therapy animal

“Several studies have reported the physiological and emotional benefits of interactions with animals, especially dogs. Interaction with dogs increases oxytocin concentrations, decreases cortisol levels, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease,” noted the study authors. 

“Interaction with animals also reduces stress reactivity, anxiety, and behavioral distress and is considered an effective treatment for mental and behavioral disorders.”

Distinguishing between various types of dog interactions 

However, such studies often overlook the distinction between various types of interactions, such as petting, feeding, or playing, leaving a gap in our understanding of how each specific activity influences human health and happiness.

To delve deeper into the nuances of how interactions with dogs affect emotional states, the experts conducted an experimental study with 30 adults. 

The participants engaged in eight distinct activities with a well-trained dog, including playing with toys, offering treats, and taking photos together. Throughout these interactions, the participants’ brain activity was monitored using electroencephalography (EEG) technology, and they reported their emotional responses following each activity.

Benefits of dog interactions

The experts found that activities like playing and walking the dog were associated with an increase in alpha-band oscillations in the brain, indicative of a state of calm alertness. 

Conversely, when grooming, massaging, or engaging in play that required focus, participants experienced an increase in beta-band oscillations, signals often connected to improved concentration levels. 

Moreover, participants noted a significant reduction in feelings of fatigue, depression, and stress after participating in the dog-related activities.

It’s important to note that the inclination of participants towards animals, despite not all owning pets, might have influenced the study’s outcomes, suggesting a potential bias. 

Broader implications 

Nevertheless, the researchers highlight the significance of identifying the unique physiological effects linked to each type of interaction. This insight could pave the way for more tailored animal-assisted therapies.

“This study demonstrated that specific dog activities could activate stronger relaxation, emotional stability, attention, concentration, and creativity by facilitating increased brain activity,” said the researchers.

“In addition, interactions with dogs could decrease stress and induce positive emotional responses. These results provide data that forms the basis for the composition of the AAI program and may be applicable as a reference to determine the most effective activities for specific applications.”

The study is published in the journal PLoS ONE.

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