Can dogs reduce stress levels in school children?
July 5, 2022
Dr. Gee's study was the first study to use a randomized controlled trial to study the effects of dog-assisted interventions on stress and Special Educational Needs in school children. Both neurotypical children and children with special needs participated in the study. The authors compared salivary cortisol (as a measure of stress) in a dog intervention group, a relaxation intervention group, and a no-treatment control group. For the neurotypical children, no increase in stress occurred for the dog intervention group despite that the no-treatment control group displayed a gradual increase of stress as the semester continued (which is consistent with the literature). For children with special needs, when the dog intervention was conducted within the context of a small group of peers, the children with special needs showed a "striking decrease in cortisol levels, indicating a decisive reduction in stress levels" but may have depended on their peers to facilitate the the dog intervention.
Meints, K., Brelsford, V.L., Dimolareva, M., Maréchal, L., Pennington, K., Rowan, E., Gee, N.R. (2022). Can dogs reduce stress levels in school children? effects of dog-assisted interventions on salivary cortisol in children with and without special educational needs using randomized controlled trials. PLOS ONE 17(6): e0269333. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269333