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Students experience many stressors throughout the semester. Student stress may arise from various facets of academic life (e.g. academics, financial, and relationship) (Dusselier et al., 2005). Most students report chronic stress (Pierceall & Keim, 2007).
Therapy dogs may lessen student stress. However, research on how therapy dogs reduce stress is mixed. Some research suggests therapy dogs only reduce psychological perception of stress while other research suggests physiological stress reduction.
Barker et al. (2016) measured stress with both psychological tests and physiological markers in students. Interacting with therapy dogs reduced the perceived stress but did not change the physiological markers of stress.
Crump & Derting (2016) measured stress with both psychological and physiological markers in female freshmen students. Interacting with therapy dogs reduced perceived stress and systolic blood pressure, but not diastolic blood pressure or heart rate.
Other studies indicate a lack of heart rate or blood pressure reduction when interacting with personal pet dogs (Grossberg et al., 2015)
While the Barker et al. (2016) study supported mainly psychological stress reduction, the ability of Crump et al. (2016) to demonstrate a physiological stress reduction suggests further inquiry is necessary to gain a complete understanding of the stress buffering capabilities of therapy dogs.
This study utilizes a different physiological stress measurement: heart rate variability (HRV). In a resent meta-analysis, HRV was demonstrated effective at indicating changes in stress. This is a significant advantage over heart rate and blood pressure measurements (Kim et al., 2018)
Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Work | Sociology
Beasley, Nicole L., "The Effect of Therapy Dogs and Meditation on Student Stress" (2019). Content presented at the Roesch Social Sciences Symposium. 15.