A new Israeli study authored by Dr. Michel Balaish, Director of the Veterinary Institute at the Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, has discovered that the blood pressure of children who were raised with a dog in the house were lower than children who were raised without one, according to Israeli media.
It is wildly known that having an animal in the house can greatly reduce stress and anxiety among pet owners and can even lead to a longer life. In fact, some doctors even prescribe therapy dogs or recommend that a patient adopt an animal if their anxiety or depression is severe enough, as opposed to normal medications.
Although it has been discovered in past studies that introducing a dog into a room will immediately reduce the blood pressure of a young child, there have been no studies conducted that have determined if children growing up with a dog in the house do in fact have lower blood pressure, according to Israel Hayom.
The observational clinical trial had a sample size of 229 children, ages six to nine, chosen from two different schools in the Shoham area, just southeast of Tel Aviv. The children’s blood pressure were checked at three different times throughout the day – during class, during relaxation and during times of stress (such as reading an excerpt from a text to the class). The process was tracked through questionnaires and daily diaries the parents of the children kept throughout the process.
The blood pressure of children who raised a dog had an average measurement of 4.5mm Hg during times of stress, whereas the rate dropped as expected during times of relaxation, the difference was not significant to the findings.
“The study shows that raising a dog at home is associated with low blood pressure during stressful situations in children and that owning a dog has added health value,” Dr. Blaish explained.
In a related development, UK-based researchers found in that by combining information from different senses dogs form abstract mental representations of positive and negative emotional states in people.
“Our dog Bamba gives me a sense of security and good feeling. I feel really happy with her and when I’m sad she comforts me. It’s fun to play and hug her. Sometimes, when I have nothing to do, I just lie with her. I have never lived without a dog in the family and I can not imagine my life any differently,” said eight-year-old dog-owner Yaara.
Yaara’s statement can be confirmed by previous studies in the past that have shown that dogs can differentiate between human emotions from signs such as facial expressions. However, this is not the same as emotional recognition, according to Dr Kun Guo, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology.
“This is the first empirical experiment that will show dogs can integrate visual and oratory inputs to understand or differentiate human emotion as dog emotion,” Kun told Reuters.
Experiments were carried out by a team of animal behavior experts and psychologists at the University of Lincoln, UK, and University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
They presented 17 untrained domestic dogs with images and sounds conveying either positive or negative emotional expressions in humans and dogs.
The dogs used in the testing were unfamiliar with the procedure; avoiding any chance of conditioning. The vocalization sound accompanying the human faces was also unfamiliar.
“We used Portuguese to British dogs so they weren’t habituated with any words, they weren’t familiar with any words. So, we wanted to see if the dogs could assess the emotional content of the human voices and whether they would actually discriminate the emotional information within them,” explained Natalia De Souza Albuquerque, a PhD student in experimental psychology.
The results, published recently in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, found that dogs spent significantly longer looking at the facial expressions which matched the emotional state of the vocalization, for both human and canine subjects.
“What we found is that when dogs were hearing positive sounds they would look longer to positive faces, both human and dog. And when they were listening to negative sounds they would look longer to negative, angry faces,” added De Souza Albuquerque.
The study shows that dogs can integrate two different sources of sensory information into a perception of emotion in both humans and dogs. This means dogs must have a system of internal categorization of emotional states. Among animal groups, it’s a cognitive ability previously only evidenced in primates.
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SOURCE: Jerusalem Post, Zachary Keyser