Can the Presence of a Dog Reduce Stress?

A lot of #families worldwide are pet owners. Although the majority of them have either dogs or cats, dogs seek social interaction, are loyal, nonjudgmental and respond to human’s emotions; Therefore, they are one of the most supportive pets.

A pet dog might facilitate a child’s adaptive emotion regulation. It may also enhance emotion regulation if the pet is perceived as a nonjudgmental supporter.

Furthermore, a pet can enhance positive mood, which in turn, could improve regulatory responses through broadening attentional focus and creative thinking about coping responses.

The experience of positive emotion, that is improved by a pet, has been broadly linked to enhanced problem solving, cognitive flexibility, physical health, and decreased lifetime risk for affective disorders.


Kaminski, Pellino, and Wish, 2002, have shown that children, under the presence of a dog, display more positive emotions and less distress after completing stressful tasks. Moreover, Beetz et al., 2011, has presented evidence supporting that the presence of dog pets may modulate children’s Sympathetic Nervous System reactivity. Although psychophysiological studies of human-animal interaction and emotional responses to stress have focused on the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) also plays an important role in allowing humans to cope adaptively.

Kerns et al. 2018, tested whether children who completed a stressful task with their dog present, reported more positive effects and less negative ones than those who completed the task without their dog being present. In Addition, they tested whether children completing the task with their dog present, exhibited greater high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV).

It was found that children, who completed a social stressful task under the presence of their dog, reported greater positive effects compared to children who completed the same task without their dog present. However, the presence of the pet did not mitigate negative affects nor influenced high frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV).

In conclusion, there was found that children, who were completing a stressful task under the presence of their pet dog, had an elevated positive emotion. Nevertheless, the presence of that pet did not influence any negative effects nor increased the heart frequency rate variability (HF-HRV).

Source: Pet Dogs: Does their presence influence preadolescents’ emotional responses to a social stressor?
Kerns et al. 2018
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