Having a family dog helps lower stress levels in your children—and it’s more effective than other approaches that have been tried in the classroom, such as meditation and yoga.
Stress is a growing problem in school children; it can affect their ability to learn, their behaviour, health and general wellbeing.
Researchers from the University of Lincoln in the UK tested several stress-reducing methods on a group of 105 schoolchildren with no learning problems and 44 children from seven special education needs schools. The children were aged between eight and nine years.
They either joined a dog-handling class or practised meditation, while the rest were put in a control group, which didn’t try any form of stress-reducing activity.
The dog group interacted with a trained dog and handler for 20 minutes for a few sessions while the relaxation group meditated for the same amount of time.
After the sessions, the children’s levels of cortisol—the stress hormone—in their saliva was measured; levels in the dog group were ‘significantly’ lower in all the children, whether they were at a mainstream or special needs school, compared to children who meditated or in the control group. Cortisol levels continued to rise in both the latter groups during the school term.
PLOS ONE, 2022; 17: e0269333