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New study confirms cuddling a dog is good for your health

Man cuddling a dog on floor
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The news that cuddling a dog is good for your health is bound to put smiles on the dials of pet parents around the world who love nothing more that snuggling up with their canine companions.

If you own a dog, then the findings from a study conducted by the University of British Columbia Okanagan that found that hugging a hound significantly improves wellbeing probably won’t come as any great surprise, but it’s still great to have science confirm what we’ve long suspected.

"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," the study's lead author Dr. John-Tyler Binfet says. "We know that spending time with therapy dogs is beneficial, but we didn't know why."

The study assessed the mental state of 284 undergraduate students before and after they spent time with a service dog. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions: canine interaction treatment conditions, touch or no touch canine interaction, or a handler-only condition where no dog was present. 

Both before and after their interactions, students were asked to measure their self-perceptions across a range of themes including social connectedness, happiness, loneliness, stress and homesickness. The results clearly showed that that while all the students experienced some level of enhanced wellbeing, only those that took part in the direct contact condition reported significant improvements.

“Direct interactions with therapy dogs through touch elicited greater wellbeing benefits than did no touch/indirect interactions or interactions with only a dog handler,” Binfet explains.

The team believe the findings clearly demonstrate the benefits of canine-assisted intervention programs being implemented in schools at all levels as a compliment to other mental health and wellness programs.

"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," Dr. Binfet said. "That's a surefire way to reduce stress."

Kathryn Rosenberg

Kathryn is a freelance writer with a passion for creating health and wellness, travel and wildlife content. Originally from New Zealand, her nomadic lifestyle has her currently fur baby-less. She scratches her pet parent itch by stealing frequent cuddles with any neighbourhood cat kind enough to indulge her.