Study Says, Petting, Cuddling with a Dog Can Greatly Enhance your Well-being

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KELOWNA, British Columbia — Therapy dogs (and other animals too) have been helping patients for years. While it’s great to have a furry companion around during rehabilitation, is there a real health benefit to petting a dog? According to researchers in Canada, there really is. A team from the University of British Columbia reports that petting and cuddling with a therapy dog significantly enhances well-being.

“There have been a number of studies that have found canine-assisted interventions significantly improve participants’ wellbeing, but there has been little research into what interactions provide the greatest benefits,” says Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, associate professor in the School of Education and director of the Building Academic Retention Through K-9s (BARK) program, in a university release. “We know that spending time with therapy dogs is beneficial but we didn’t know why.”

Study authors gathered 284 college students to help them with this project. They then randomly assigned each student to one of three groups. One group could interact with a therapy dog, but with no touching. Another could both interact and touch their therapy dog and a third group met with a dog handler and no pup at all.

Before getting started, each student filled out a survey asking about their overall well-being. These assessments included questions regarding social connectedness, happiness, integration into the campus community, stress, homesickness, loneliness, positive and negative affect, and “self-perceptions of flourishing.”

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SOURCE: Study Finds, John Anderer