Dogs Can Help Kids With Stressful Tasks Like Public Speaking, Researchers Say

Dogs are, of course, man’s best friend. But new research indicates that they might be kids’ best friends as well. A recent study looked at the effect having a dog has on the stress levels of children. The results will probably not surprise many — especially those who have experienced first-hand the wonderful benefits of having a furry friend.

The research from the University of Florida studied 100 families with pets and children between the ages of 7 and 12. explains:

Then they had the kids complete both a public speaking task and some mental math—both of which are known to raise the stress hormone cortisol and simulate real-life stress in children’s lives.

The researchers found that having a pet dog present while undergoing the public speaking and math experiences lowered the kids’ stress levels—even more so than having a parent around did! But the way the kids interacted with their dogs also seemed to matter.

“Children who actively solicited their dogs to come and be pet or stroked had lower cortisol levels compared to children who engaged their dogs less,” explained Darlene Kertes, an assistant professor in University of Florida’s psychology department. “When dogs hovered around or approached children on their own, however, children’s cortisol tended to be higher.”

One reason this study is so important is because children learn coping mechanisms that they will later use in adulthood. Understanding what can calm (or trigger) one’s emotional or social behavior from an early age can have a great effect later in life. So if your child has been begging for a puppy, science says that perhaps you should get one!