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Exploratory study of stress-buffering response patterns from interaction with a therapy dog

By S. B. Barker, J. S. Knisely, N. L. McCain, C. M. Schubert, A. K. Pandurangi

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This exploratory study builds on existing research on the physiological stress response to human-animal interactions in a non-clinical sample of adult dog-owners interacting with their own or an unfamiliar therapy dog under similar conditions. Participants were therapy-dog owners (TDO group; n=5) interacting with their own dogs and dog owners interacting with an unfamiliar therapy dog (AAA group; n=5). Following a 30minute baseline period, participants completed a stress task followed by a 30-minute dog interaction and then watched a neutral video for 60 minutes. The outcome variable of interest was the bio-behavioral stress response, measured by systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP, DBP), heart rate (HR), salivary cortisol, salivary alpha-amylase, and self-report. Trait anxiety and attitudes toward pets were assessed as moderating variables. Results revealed consistent physiological patterns, showing modest increases with the stressor and decreases from baseline following the intervention, for salivary cortisol, SBP, DBP, HR, and self reported anxiety and stress for both groups. In general, although the TDO group tended to perceive less stress and anxiety during the intervention than the AAA group, greater reductions in physiological measures were observed in the AAA group. Positive attitudes toward pets in the total sample of dog owners were associated with decreased levels of self-reported stress (p

Date 2010
Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 23
Issue 1
Pages 79-91
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Language English
Author Address School of Medicine Center for Human-Animal Interaction, Virginia Commonwealth University, P.O. Box 980710, Richmond, VA 23298-0710,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal diseases
  3. Animal physiology
  4. Anthrozoology
  5. Attitudes
  6. Blood Pressure
  7. Cortisol
  8. Dogs
  9. Heart
  10. Heart rate
  11. Hemodynamics
  12. Hydrocortisone
  13. Indicators
  14. Interactions
  15. Interventions
  16. Mammals
  17. nervous system
  18. parasympathetic system
  19. peer-reviewed
  20. Pets and companion animals
  21. Research
  22. Social psychology and social anthropology
  23. Stress
  24. Studies
  25. therapeutics
  26. therapy
  1. peer-reviewed