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New research by UBC proves that cuddling dogs is actually good for your health

University of British Columbia researchers at the Okanagan campus looked into what it is that makes us so happy when we spend time with dogs.

Doogle, a volunteer therapy dog in UBCO’s Building Academic Retention Through K-9s program | UBC

We all know that giving your pooch a belly rub can boost our moods - but now it’s actually been proven that canine cuddles are good for your health.

New research from The University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus looked into why we get that warm fuzzy feeling when spending time with dogs, and what it is about our interactions with our four-legged friends that makes us happier.

To test what exactly improves our wellbeing when spending time with dogs, UBCO researchers drafted 284 students to participate in a study.

Leading the research was Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, associate professor in the School of Education and director of the Building Academic Retention Through K-9s (BARK) program, which is designed to support the emotional wellbeing of undergraduates. Under his guidance, university analysts randomly assigned students to one of three treatment conditions.

Some were given the chance to touch the dogs whereas others were only able to look at them, and the last group spent time with a dog handler but no dog.

Dr. Binfet said: “There have been a number of studies that have found canine-assisted interventions significantly improve participants’ wellbeing, but there has been little research into what interactions provide the greatest benefits. We know that spending time with therapy dogs is beneficial but we didn’t know why.”

After providing self reports on their levels of wellbeing - including stress, homesickness and loneliness - students who were able to touch the dogs showed the biggest increase in their wellbeing across all areas studied.

Dr Binfet is now encouraging program administrators at universities to ensure similar programs such as B.A.R.K are made available to students as they possibly return to in-person classes this fall.

He said: “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. That’s a sure-fire way to reduce stress.”


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