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Study Confirms What We All Knew: Cuddling Dogs Is Good For You

Even though it's pretty obvious that most people love dogs, it's easy to underestimate just how deep that love goes.

Sure, it's pretty understandable that people would go to serious lengths to protect their dogs when we consider how many things they'll happily do for us, but we're starting to see actual scientific studies showing just how powerful the mere presence of dogs can be for us.

But while researchers and therapy dog programs have previously made it clear that our interactions with dogs are a big help to us, it seems we still have a lot to learn about how that relationship works.

In a study conducted by the University of British Columbia Okanagan, researchers sought to fill a gap in research about which dog interactions have the best results for our wellbeing.

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As the study lead author Dr. John-Tyler Binfet said in a statement, "We know that spending time with therapy dogs is beneficial, but we didn't know why."

So to test the effects of our relationships with dogs on us, his team gathered 284 undergraduate students and took note of their mental states before and after the study.

These students were separated into three groups and asked about eight different markers of their wellbeing.

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One group was encouraged to touch the dogs during their time together, while a second was instructed to keep their interactions more indirect and a third only met with the therapy dog's handler.

As for what they were being tested for, researchers broke their wellbeing down into categories of stress, social connection levels, homesickness, loneliness, integration into their campus community, happiness, whether they feel like they're flourishing, and "positive and negative affects."

And after the researchers were satisfied with the students' participation, they found that all three groups reported some improvement in several wellbeing categories.

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However, only those in the direct touch category who actually had a chance to cuddle with the dogs saw enhancements in all eight measures the research team was checking for.

Moreover, the benefits seen in the direct touch group were significantly more pronounced than in either of the other two groups.

So while the research team's findings suggested it was better to be around a dog you couldn't touch than no dog at all, the best results both in wellbeing measures addressed and in how effectively they were improved came from physical interactions.

As Binfet put it, "As students potentially return to in-person class on their college campuses this fall and seek ways to keep their stress in check, I'd encourage them to take advantage of the therapy dog visitation program offered. And once there — be sure to make time for a canine cuddle. That's a surefire way to reduce stress."

h/t: People, Anthrozoös