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Presence of a dog reduces subjective but not physiological stress responses to an analog trauma

By J. Lass-Hennemann, P. Peyk, M. Streb, E. Holz, T. Michael

Category Journal Articles

Dogs are known to have stress and anxiety reducing effects. Several studies have shown that dogs are able to calm people during cognitive and performance stressors. Recently, therapy dogs have been proposed as a treatment adjunct for post-traumatic stress disorder patients. In this study we aimed to investigate, whether dogs also have anxiety- and stress reducing effect during “traumatic stressors.” 80 healthy female participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions. They were exposed to a “traumatic” film clip (trauma-film-paradigm). For one group of participants a friendly dog was present during the film, one group of participants was accompanied by a friendly human, another control group watched the film with a toy animal and the last group watched the film clip alone. Participants that were accompanied by the dog during the film reported lower anxiety ratings and less negative affect after the film clip as compared to the “toy dog group” and the “alone group.” Results of the “dog group” were comparable to the group that was accompanied by a friendly human. There were no differences in physiological stress responses between the four conditions. Our results show that dogs are able to lessen subjectively experienced stress and anxiety during a “traumatic” stress situation. This effect was comparable to that of social support by a friendly person. Implications for PTSD patients are discussed.

Date 2014
Publication Title Frontiers in Psychology
Volume 5
Pages 1010
ISBN/ISSN 1664-1078 (Electronic)
DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01010
Language English
Author Address Division of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Department of Psychology, Saarland University Saarbrucken Germany.
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Cortisol
  3. open access
  4. peer-reviewed
  5. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  6. Service animals
  7. Stress
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed