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Stress is one of the most detrimental things for our everyday life. No matter the source, it can have a major impact on our well-being. Luckily, those who own dogs have a way to reduce the amount of stress through petting their pooch for only ten minutes.

A study conducted on students has all the proof necessary to confirm this phenomenon, and I love it. This changes the whole outlook on owning a pet dog, and the positive effects of having a great relationship with them.

So, How Does This Work Exactly, And Why Students?

a girl holding dog in her hands while studying with friends outdoorsa girl holding dog in her hands while studying with friends outdoors

University students are a demographic group that regularly expresses symptoms of stress, having to meet short deadlines and even work to pay for their academic endeavors [1]. 

The same study showed that their mental and physical health was seriously degraded due to high stress levels. All of these findings made students the ideal candidates for testing the effects of dog petting on stress relief.

Animal visitation programs (AVP) have been used to alleviate stress in students, but confirmation that they actually work was only recently shared with the world. This is what the study discovered and confirmed.

Cortisol levels after petting a dog for ten minutes (during AVP sessions) were reduced compared to those before the test [2]. Why is cortisol important for the study? This hormone is called “the stress hormone” because it’s released during stressful situations.

Whether the students were participants, observers, waitlisted, or simply watching slideshows of others petting dogs, all had a reduction in stress levels. However, the results showed that one test group had vastly lower cortisol levels than the others. 

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The Test Groups And Their Results

cute jack russell terrier dog with his paws on notebookcute jack russell terrier dog with his paws on notebook

Group 1, who had a hands-on approach and participated in petting the dogs, showed major reductions in cortisol levels 15 and 25 minutes after they pet a dog. The levels were measured through saliva samples collected after waking up, and the two timeframes mentioned above.

The second group were only observers. They saw other students actively participating in the AVP sessions without ever touching the dogs. A similar trend of a less significant cortisol level decrease was observed with the slideshow and waitlist groups, according to the study.

Interestingly enough, the observation and slideshow groups had almost identical test results, while the waitlist group showed a small increase in cortisol levels after the pretest. I guess they were only envious of the people who got to pet a dog for ten minutes.

The Bigger Picture Of This Study

Even in the conclusion of the study itself, the numbers and empirical proof strongly suggests that animal visitation programs are an effective way to reduce stress levels in humans.

Students were selected due to their high stress levels, but the same principle can be applied to every human being. Coming home after a more than eventful day at work might be that much easier if you have a dog (or cat) to pet for at least ten minutes.

This gave me a much bigger appreciation of the energy and evolutionary road of dogs in regard to helping humans cope with difficulties. Go ahead and try lowering your cortisol levels now.


[1] Barbayannis, G., Bandari, M., Zheng, X., Baquerizo, H., Pecor, K. W., & Ming, X. (2022). Academic stress and mental well-being in college students: Correlations, affected groups, and covid-19. Frontiers in Psychology, 13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.886344 

[2] Pendry, P., & Vandagriff, J. L. (2019). Animal Visitation Program (AVP) reduces cortisol levels of university students: A randomized controlled trial. AERA Open, 5(2), 233285841985259. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858419852592 

By Andy Marcus

Hello, my name is Andy Marcus, and I am a passionate dog lover and enthusiast. For me, there is nothing quite like the joy and love that a furry friend can bring into our lives. I have spent years studying and learning about dogs, and have made it my mission to share my knowledge and expertise with others through my website. Through my website, I aim to provide comprehensive information and resources for dog owners and enthusiasts. Whether it's training tips, health and nutrition advice, or insights into dog behavior, I strive to create a platform that is accessible and useful to everyone who loves dogs.

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