New Study Shows That Cuddling a Dog Enhances Wellbeing

Hugging an adorable canine can make everything better!

Aug 26, 2021
New Study Shows That Cuddling a Dog Enhances Wellbeing | Hugging an adorable canine can make everything better!

A new study from a team at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan (UBC Okanagan) in Canada, reveals what dog lovers have always known; petting or cuddling a dog is good for us! It’s official. Hugging canines boosts our mood and does wonders for our mental wellbeing.

The study’s lead author, Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, and his team knew that spending time with therapy dogs benefited people. This, the media release explains, is documented in several earlier studies. But they wanted to put their finger on why this happens. In their words: “The aim of this study was to assess the impact of client–canine contact on wellbeing outcomes.”

Testing almost 300 volunteer undergraduates in their study, the researchers decided to randomly assign the students to one of three treatment conditions. Touch or no touch canine interaction, or time spent with the dog handler with no therapy dog present.

Each of the participating students were asked to report on their mental state before and after the interaction. They were quizzed on things like their self-perceptions of flourishing, happiness, integration into the campus community and homesickness. They were also asked how much of a social connection they felt with the canine, what they thought of their exchange with the dog’s owner, and if they were stressed during their time with the dog.

And the findings are heartwarming. It was the belly rubs, ear scratches and nuzzles, in other words the physical contact with the dogs, that offered the students the most significant improvements in their wellbeing. 

Or in the words of the researchers: “Results indicate that participants across all conditions experienced enhanced wellbeing on several measures; however, only those in the direct contact [with the dogs] condition reported significant improvements on all measures of wellbeing.”

Binfet explained in the media release that canine-assisted intervention programs are "a surefire way to reduce stress." He recommends that programs keep groups small so that all taking part get to pet a dog, and derive the most benefit from their interaction.

Binfet also thinks that loving contact with a cuddly dog has much to offer students right now. This is because many students may be anxious about their return to in-person learning. As he told People,  “As students potentially return to in-person class on their college campuses this fall and seek ways to keep their stress in check, I'd encourage them to take advantage of the therapy dog visitation program offered. And once there — be sure to make time for a canine cuddle."

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.