Murray State University

Poster Title

Effects of Pet Therapy on the Stress Level of Therapy Dogs and First-Year Female Undergraduates: STUDY 1 (Crump & Whitewood): The Experimental Analysis of the Effects of Pet Therapy on the Blood Pressure and Stress Levels of First-year College Females

Institution

Murray State University

Abstract

Students experience significant stress during their undergraduate studies. Universities provide counseling and activities to help students alleviate stress but more cost-effective approaches are needed. Recent research indicated that humans can gain stress relief through pet therapy. My objective was to determine if pet therapy had an effect on stress levels of first-year female undergraduates. My null hypothesis was that pet therapy did not affect first-year females’ physiological and perceived stress levels. I recruited 27 first-year female students and nine certified pet therapy dogs. Baseline measurements of blood pressure (BP), heart rate, respiration rate, salivary cortisol level, and perceived stress and arousal level were made. Participants were then randomly selected to participate in the dog group or the no-dog control group for 15 min. Afterwards, a second set of measurements was taken, and then participants switched groups for another 15 min, followed by a final set of measurements. There were no significant effects of pet therapy on diastolic BP, heart rate, and respiration rate. Arousal of participants was significantly higher after pet therapy, as indicated by higher systolic BP, cortisol, and perceived arousal measurements compared with measurements after the control period. Concurrently, perceived stress level was reduced. My results paralleled changes that occur during exercise where physiological stress increases and psychological stress decreases. My results indicated that pet therapy may be useful as a cost-effective method of helping students reduce their psychological stress level. Pet therapy sessions of longer duration are needed to further study its potential as a means of reducing physiological stress in college students.

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Effects of Pet Therapy on the Stress Level of Therapy Dogs and First-Year Female Undergraduates: STUDY 1 (Crump & Whitewood): The Experimental Analysis of the Effects of Pet Therapy on the Blood Pressure and Stress Levels of First-year College Females

Students experience significant stress during their undergraduate studies. Universities provide counseling and activities to help students alleviate stress but more cost-effective approaches are needed. Recent research indicated that humans can gain stress relief through pet therapy. My objective was to determine if pet therapy had an effect on stress levels of first-year female undergraduates. My null hypothesis was that pet therapy did not affect first-year females’ physiological and perceived stress levels. I recruited 27 first-year female students and nine certified pet therapy dogs. Baseline measurements of blood pressure (BP), heart rate, respiration rate, salivary cortisol level, and perceived stress and arousal level were made. Participants were then randomly selected to participate in the dog group or the no-dog control group for 15 min. Afterwards, a second set of measurements was taken, and then participants switched groups for another 15 min, followed by a final set of measurements. There were no significant effects of pet therapy on diastolic BP, heart rate, and respiration rate. Arousal of participants was significantly higher after pet therapy, as indicated by higher systolic BP, cortisol, and perceived arousal measurements compared with measurements after the control period. Concurrently, perceived stress level was reduced. My results paralleled changes that occur during exercise where physiological stress increases and psychological stress decreases. My results indicated that pet therapy may be useful as a cost-effective method of helping students reduce their psychological stress level. Pet therapy sessions of longer duration are needed to further study its potential as a means of reducing physiological stress in college students.