University students have been found to have higher rates of psychological distress than that of the general population, which reportedly rises significantly upon starting university and does not return to pre-university levels throughout their time in university. It is therefore highly important to find ways to improve student health and well-being. One way that may help is by interacting with animals. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine whether interacting with a dog would have a positive effect on university students’ mood and anxiety. This study assigned 82 university students to either the experimental condition (dog interaction, n = 41) or to the control condition (dog video, n = 41). The students completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule-Expanded Form (PANAS-X), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Pet Attitude Scale before their assigned conditions, to evaluate their mood and anxiety levels and attitudes to animals. The participants again completed the STAI and PANAS-X Form after their condition, to assess for possible changes in anxiety and mood. The findings of the study indicated that all participants, regardless of condition, experienced a reduction in their anxiety and an improvement in their mood across time. However, directly interacting with a dog resulted in greater declines in anxiety and improved mood scores, more so than watching a video. Consequently, it appears there are psychological benefits to be gained by students from interacting with dogs and it is hoped this study will help to inform future best practices in designing student dog interventions.
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