Researchers at the University of Lincoln, the UK, examined how pet therapy lowers stress in school children. The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The researchers tracked levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva of school children, aged 8–9 years, with and without special needs. The study ran for four weeks.
The participants were randomly divided into 3 groups: a dog group, a relaxation group, and a control group. In the first group, the children interacted with a trained therapy dog and handler; in the second group, the children attended a meditation session.
The results revealed that therapy dogs can be healing for children, especially when it comes to reducing children’s stress levels. In fact, dog interventions significantly lead to lower cortisol levels in children from both mainstream and special needs schools.
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Meints, K., Brelsford, V. L., Dimolareva, M., Maréchal, L., Pennington, K., Rowan, E., & Gee, N. R. (2022). Can dogs reduce stress levels in school children? effects of dog-assisted interventions on salivary cortisol in children with and without special educational needs using randomized controlled trials. PloS one, 17(6), e0269333. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269333