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Need to relax? Playing with a dog reduces stress, new study suggests

Need to relax? Playing with a dog reduces stress, new study suggests
Posted at 7:25 AM, Mar 22, 2024

As many dog-lovers already know, spending time with a dog can help give you a serotonin boost. Whether it’s cuddling your pup on the couch after a long day or taking your dog out for a stroll around the neighborhood, there’s something about being around dogs that promotes a feeling of calmness and serenity. And, according to a new study, more real scientific evidence backs up these feelings.

As detailed in the journal Plos One, this study was conducted by researchers out of Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. They asked 30 healthy adults between the ages of 20 and 40, including both current pet owners and non-pet owners, to spend time interacting with a well-trained, 4-year-old poodle in routine ways. These included meeting, feeding, cuddling, grooming, massaging, photographing, walking, and playing with her.

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During each three-minute activity, the researchers studied the participants’ brain waves via electrodes attached to their heads and evaluated their moods based on a questionnaire that each participant was asked to fill out after every activity.

French bulldogs

Despite it being a relatively small study, the researchers concluded that all of the activities resulted in a decrease in the participants’ stress levels. Some, like playing with the dog and walking her, even led to an increase in alpha brain waves that are associated with feelings of relaxation, emotional stability and concentration. So, despite interacting with the dog for just three minutes at a time, being around her seemed to have a positive effect on the participants’ brains.

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The study’s results suggest that even small amounts of time spent interacting with a dog may help people feel happier and less stressed. And you don’t even need to own a dog to reap the benefits. Volunteering at an animal rescue, walking a shelter dog, or even just visiting with a friend who has a dog can all be opportunities to engage.

And if you already have your own furry BFF, this study likely just confirms what you’ve likely already realized — that having a dog makes life more joyful and fun. So, the next time you’re hanging out with your dog, make sure to give them all the scratches and pets you can. You may benefit from playtime as much as your pup does!

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