Presentation Title

Hormonal Synchronization between Therapy Dogs and Handlers

Presenter Information

Kristen CunninghamFollow

Advisor Information

Rosemary Strasser

Location

Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library

Presentation Type

Poster

Start Date

3-3-2017 12:30 PM

End Date

3-3-2017 1:45 PM

Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated the benefits of therapy animals to a variety of populations including individuals with autism, children learning to read, and hospitalized patients, among many others. Most work up to this point has focused on the benefits received by therapy patients and little work has been done to investigate the effects of therapy visits on the dogs themselves or the relationship between therapy dogs and their owners. Dogs are extremely proficient in interpreting human social cues and have been shown to mirror their owners’ emotional states during emotionally arousing events, a phenomenon referred to as hormonal synchronization. The present study investigates levels of hormonal synchronization between therapy dogs and their owners. Salivary cortisol samples were collected from 28 women and three men over the course of a therapy visit. Three samples were collected: baseline, the beginning of the session, after the session had ended. Results showed a trend for humans’ change in cortisol levels to predict dogs’ change in cortisol levels across the session above and beyond the effects of both individuals’ baseline cortisol levels and the amount of time the animal had spent as a therapy dog. Hormonal synchronization was found to be stronger for males than for females which was consistent with previous findings. Additionally, this relationship was found to be stronger in nursing and retirement homes compared to other facilities. Future research should incorporate the measurements of other hormones such as oxytocin and testosterone which may help explain some variation in cortisol levels.

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Mar 3rd, 12:30 PM Mar 3rd, 1:45 PM

Hormonal Synchronization between Therapy Dogs and Handlers

Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library

Previous research has demonstrated the benefits of therapy animals to a variety of populations including individuals with autism, children learning to read, and hospitalized patients, among many others. Most work up to this point has focused on the benefits received by therapy patients and little work has been done to investigate the effects of therapy visits on the dogs themselves or the relationship between therapy dogs and their owners. Dogs are extremely proficient in interpreting human social cues and have been shown to mirror their owners’ emotional states during emotionally arousing events, a phenomenon referred to as hormonal synchronization. The present study investigates levels of hormonal synchronization between therapy dogs and their owners. Salivary cortisol samples were collected from 28 women and three men over the course of a therapy visit. Three samples were collected: baseline, the beginning of the session, after the session had ended. Results showed a trend for humans’ change in cortisol levels to predict dogs’ change in cortisol levels across the session above and beyond the effects of both individuals’ baseline cortisol levels and the amount of time the animal had spent as a therapy dog. Hormonal synchronization was found to be stronger for males than for females which was consistent with previous findings. Additionally, this relationship was found to be stronger in nursing and retirement homes compared to other facilities. Future research should incorporate the measurements of other hormones such as oxytocin and testosterone which may help explain some variation in cortisol levels.