Study Suggests Dogs Could Be Effective Therapists for Humans

by Lisa

The idea of dogs as not just companions but potential therapists has gained traction in recent research, suggesting that interactions with canines can have profound effects on human well-being.

A study conducted by researchers from Konkuk University in South Korea delved into the neurological and emotional impact of human-dog interactions. Using electroencephalogram (EEG) tests on 30 adults, the team observed brain activity during various activities with a specially trained standard poodle.


Participants engaged in activities such as playing, feeding, massaging, and taking photos with the dog, with their emotional responses assessed through questionnaires and self-reporting tests.


Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study revealed consistent positive effects on participants’ mood and stress levels across all activities with the dog. Activities like feeding, massaging, and hugging the dog were particularly associated with improved mood and reduced stress.


Beyond emotional responses, the EEG data showed an increase in beta waves during interactions involving physical contact with the dog, such as massage and grooming. Beta waves are linked to attention and concentration, suggesting that these interactions may enhance cognitive focus without adding stress.


While the study acknowledges potential biases, such as participants’ pre-existing appreciation for dogs, it underscores the therapeutic potential of human-dog interactions. The authors note that further research with a larger sample size is needed to validate these findings.

These findings contribute to a growing body of evidence supporting the use of dogs in clinical settings for emotional support and therapy. Previous studies have shown that interactions with therapy dogs can lead to increased oxytocin levels, associated with social bonding, and decreased cortisol levels, linked to stress.

In institutions like Johns Hopkins Hospital in the US, therapy dogs have been shown to reduce patients’ pain levels and lower blood pressure during hospital stays, highlighting the broader therapeutic benefits of canine companionship beyond emotional support.


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