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.

Reference:

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