Science Says Interacting With Our Dogs Makes Our Brains Work Better!

Apr 8, 2024

​​For dog parents everywhere, science has validated what we all knew: spending time with our dogs isn’t just about a joyful experience. Research also says it’s good for our human health!

A study published in March 2024 examined how 30 adults’ health was affected by interacting with dogs. The researchers from Konkuk University in South Korea provided compelling evidence that interacting with our canine companions can significantly reduce stress and enhance brain function related to relaxation and concentration. So yes, giving your dog more belly rubs may be the key to concentrating more!

The study looked at the science behind animal-assisted interventions—moments like when therapy dogs visit hospitals or schools, for instance, and provide comfort or ease anxiety. These interventions have long been celebrated for their ability to foster emotional well-being, but the specifics of how different activities with animals affect us have still remained somewhat of a mystery.

Photo: A woman pets her dog as she sits with her computer in her lap.
The researchers, led by Dr. Onyoo Yoo, wanted to uncover some of those mysterious nuances of the human-animal interaction. They recruited 30 adults to participate in a series of activities with a well-trained dog. The activities included playing, feeding, and even taking selfies with the dog. To gauge the impact of these interactions, the participants were fitted with EEG caps that monitored their brain activity, and they also self-reported their emotional state after each activity.

Their findings were pretty telling. They discovered that activities like playing with or walking the dog were linked to an increase in the human’s alpha-band brainwaves, which are associated with a state of calm wakefulness. On the other hand, they noted that activities that required more focused interaction, like grooming or gentle petting, boosted beta-band oscillations, linked to heightened concentration and alertness.

Remarkably, participants reported feeling significantly more relaxed and less stressed after their time with the dog, regardless of the specific activity. These effects were observed even in individuals who didn’t own pets, suggesting a universal benefit to human-animal interactions, whether you’re a pet parent or not.

This study confirmed the specific ways our beloved pets can influence our mental health and cognitive functions. The findings not only contribute to our understanding of the therapeutic effects of spending time with animals but also hint at how targeted animal-assisted interventions can be developed in the future.

For most dog parents, this research just reinforces what we’ve always known—that the special bond we share with our pets brings us joy and serenity we often look for in the chaotic world we live in. It also provides scientific validation for that stronger sense of well-being we have when dogs are part of our lives.

It’s a reminder of the mutual benefits of our relationships with our dogs. When we offer them care and affection, it returns to us in the form of reduced stress and improved mental focus. Just more reason for us to continue cherishing the time we spend with our four-legged family members—it’s good for them and for us!

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