dog interventions can successfully attenuate stress levels in school children but point out that additional research into the ideal amounts of time and contact with dogs for optimal effect is needed.
According to a new study, researchers discovered that dog-assisted interventions can considerably reduce stress in children with and without special needs by using a salivary cortisol level.
The findings of the research by Kerstin Meints of the University of Lincoln, UK, and colleagues in the open-access journal PLOS One.
Prolonged exposure to stressors can cause adverse effects on learning, behaviour, health and wellbeing in children over their lifespan.
Several approaches to alleviating stress have been explored in schools including yoga, mindfulness, meditation, physical activity, teaching style interventions and animal-assisted interventions.
Dog interventions lead to significantly lower cortisol levels in children in both mainstream and special needs schools.
In mainstream schools, children in the control and relaxation groups had increases in mean salivary cortisol over the course of the school term.
However, children who participated in either group or individual sessions with dogs had no statistically significant increase in cortisol.
In addition, their cortisol levels were, on average, lower immediately after each dog session.
For children with special educational needs, similar patterns were seen, with decreases in cortisol after dog group interventions.