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  • Writer's pictureNancy Griffin

Interactions with Dogs Relieve Stress and Improve Mental Focus

Updated: Apr 18

Research shows playing with and grooming with dogs positively alters brain waves, boosting both relaxation and concentration



According to a new study out of South Korea found that playing with a dog alters our brain waves, enhancing relaxation and concentration while reducing stress and depression. Researchers measured the impact on participants’ brain waves during interactions with dogs and identified numerous benefits from these activities. They concluded that there’s compelling evidence of the potential advantages of “animal-assisted interventions” (AAI) for humans.


Conducted by a team from Konkuk University in Seoul, this research is among the first to quantify the specific brainwave patterns associated with different types of human-dog interactions, offering a scientific foundation to the long-suspected therapeutic benefits of our canine companions.


Previous studies have touched upon the physical and emotional benefits of interacting with dogs, such as increased oxytocin levels, decreased cortisol levels, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. This study, however, takes a unique approach by examining how different activities with dogs — ranging from playing and walking to feeding and massaging — affect our brain’s electrical activity, as measured by electroencephalograms (EEGs).


The study involved 30 healthy adults who engaged in eight distinct activities with a dog, including playing, walking, feeding, massaging, grooming, photographing, hugging, and simply meeting the dog. EEGs captured the participants’ brainwave patterns during these interactions, focusing on alpha and beta power spectra — indicators of the brain’s relaxation and concentration levels, respectively.


The results revealed that activities such as playing and walking with the dog significantly increased relaxation, as evidenced by increased alpha wave activity in the brain. In contrast, activities that required more focused interaction, like massaging and grooming the dog, led to heightened concentration without stress, indicated by increased beta wave activity.


The study explored participants’ emotional responses through questionnaires assessing their mood states before and after each activity. Consistently, interactions with the dog were associated with lower stress levels and improved mood. Playing with a dog not only relaxes the mind but also sharpens it, enhancing both relaxation and concentration. Grooming a dog led to increased beta wave activity, which has a connection to heightened concentration without stress.

 

Walking with a dog, often seen as a mere physical activity, was found to make participants feel more comfortable and natural, reinforcing the idea that these interactions can ground us and reconnect us with the simpler, essential aspects of life. The act of massaging a dog, which requires focused attention to the animal’s body, not only increased the participants’ concentration levels but also made them feel more relaxed, pointing to the potential use of such activities in therapeutic settings to boost attention and reduce anxiety.

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