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Dogs Can Help Relieve Anxiety in Kids

Interacting with dogs appears to boost mood and decrease stress levels in children and “improve clinically relevant symptoms,” new research suggests.

In the study, 78 child volunteers were exposed to a stressful task and then randomly assigned to one of three 15-minute interventions. Those who were assigned to play with trained dogs (without the dogs’ handlers present) showed greater improvement scores from baseline on the Positive Affect scale than those who were assigned to a soothing “tactile-stimulation control condition” consisting of a soft blanket or than those assigned to a “sit and wait” control group.

The dog-intervention group also showed significantly lower scores on the State/Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children compared with the wait group.

More research is now needed “to further clarify which features of the interactions produce…benefits and the extent to which interactions with animals offer benefits that exceed the effects of other common coping strategies, activities, and interventions,” the investigators write.

Still, the study “provides a carefully controlled demonstration that unstructured interactions with dogs can improve clinically relevant symptoms in children,” they add.

The study was published online recently in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.