ISLAMABAD:Pet dogs can lower stress levels in kids and provide valuable social support, a new study has found for the first time.
“Many people think pet dogs are great for kids but scientists are not sure if that is true or how it happens,” said Darlene Kertes, from the University of Florida in the US.
Kertes reasoned that one way this might occur is by helping children cope with stress.
“How we learn to deal with stress as children has lifelong consequences for how we cope with stress as adults,” she said.
Researchers recruited about 100 pet-owning families, who came to their university laboratory with their dogs.
To tap children’s stress, the children completed a public speaking task and mental arithmetic task, which are known to evoke feelings of stress and raise the stress hormone cortisol, and simulates real-life stress in children’s lives, Medical Xpress reported.
The children were randomly assigned to experience the stressor with their dog present for social support, with their parent present, or with no social support.
“Our research shows that having a pet dog present when a child is undergoing a stressful experience lowers how much children feel stressed out,” Kertes said.
“Children who had their pet dog with them reported feeling less stressed compared to having a parent for social support or having no social support,” she said.
“Because we know that learning to deal with stress in childhood has lifelong consequences for emotional health and well-being, we need to better understand what works to buffer those stress responses early in life,” she said.