When it comes to dealing with the stress of college life, a recent study suggests that therapy dogs assist vulnerable students significantly better than stress management classes.
Research Shows That Dog Therapy Helps In Releasing Stress Of Young People
Over 300 students at Washington State University were allocated randomly to one of three distinct types of stress-management programs for a month as part of the research. Each group gathered once a week for an hour to discuss various topics. The researcher identified around a third of the students as at-risk based on the survey replies indicating that they were coping with mental health issues, learning difficulties, or were underperforming academically.
Students received varying degrees of involvement with therapy dogs in the three programs.
According to research author Patricia Pendry, who is an assistant professor in the department of human development at the University of Washington State, the significant difference was the quantity of human-animal connection.
Pendry discovered in prior studies that just ten minutes of stroking a dog might work as a stress reliever for students, as assessed by declines in cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. She sought to see if longer encounters with therapy dogs may lower stress sufficiently to improve the students’ understanding, learning, and time-management abilities in this new research.
The meetings of one group resembled those of a regular college class, with no dogs present while a teacher gave research-based material about stress and coping, focused meditations, and other stress-management techniques.
The second group received no evidence-based stress study and instead spent their time stroking and socializing with licensed therapy dogs while participating in physical activities such as meditation and informal talks with their colleagues.
The last group followed a combined course, meeting for half of the time as the first group but without the dogs, and the other half as the second group.
The researchers assessed the participants’ executive performance beforehand, shortly after, and 6 weeks after the training. Executive function is a broad word that encompasses many of the abilities required for academic success, including scheduling, organizing, showing interest, and learning knowledge.
As per the research, the approach that focused just on stroking and engaging with therapy dogs resulted in the most substantial executive functioning gains among the more than 100 at-risk students, who’ve been most stressed out.
When compared to at-risk children in other groups, the kids who are most prone to struggle with stress enhanced their executive functioning abilities when they participated in the program that exclusively involved interactions with animals, according to Pendry.
The gains in executive function persisted six weeks after the treatment ended.
Although a significant increase in executive functioning was seen across the board for normal students, or those who were not considered at-risk, it was not clear that one type of program was better over another.
It’s possible that their executive functioning was already higher as a group, and there was a threshold effect or that there wasn’t a huge chance to improve because they’re already performing very well, according to Pendry. The human-animal connection definitely improved the most stressed kids. Many of the abilities that go under the tent of executive function, according to Pendry, become difficult to accomplish when people are stressed.
Although the mechanism involves the stress-relieving impact of spending time with animals is difficult to quantify, most animal enthusiasts will recognize the overall concept. One notion, according to Pendry, is that dogs operate as a social tool by boosting one’s feeling of comfort in any given environment. Dogs seem to assist people in focusing their attention on something other than their internal conflict and worries. She emphasized that one feels socially supported by others when everyone appears nicer, kinder, and happier. Pendry also mentioned that it encourages student engagement, which may also help with stress relief.