The Effects of Tactile and Indirect Contact with Dogs in a College Population
To assess how physiological stress response is affected by human-canine interactions, one hundred-thirty (n=130) Carroll College students in Helena, Montana participated in trials designed to measure blood pressure, respiratory rate, heart rate, and galvanic skin response (GSR) in low- and high-stress environments. Perceptual response to stress was also measured. Participants completed trials either without a dog, with a dog present but without physical or verbal interaction, or while maintaining contact with a dog. It was hypothesized that participants with direct physical contact with the dog would experience the least physiological change related to stress response. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) revealed that while physiological responses were similar in all groups, there was a statistically significant decrease in the perception of stress in the tactile contact group when compared to the group with no dog present (p = .02). Though results did not support the hypothesis, further review of the literature reveals indications that human-canine interactions may affect psychological stress management in similar ways as physical exercise does.