Theme Layout


Boxed or Wide or Framed

Theme Translation

Display Featured Slider


Featured Slider Styles

Display Grid Slider


Grid Slider Styles

Display Trending Posts


Display Author Bio

Display Instagram Footer

Dark or Light Style

Search This Blog

Do you Believe in Dog? (2018). Powered by Blogger.

Copyright Do You Believe in Dog (2018)

The content on Do You Believe in Dog? is copyrighted. If you are interested in using any content produced on Do You Believe in Dog? please email a request.

Strap line

It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


8 June 2013

The touching things about dogs

Hi Julie,

(source: The Blue Dog)
WOW! May was a seriously jam-packed month for dogs! I'm just as amazed as you are that it's already June. I think I'm in denial, although June means lots of fun things happening, like the SPARCS conference, so maybe it's actually OK that it's here.

I loved your last post. So much great information - thank you for sharing! You mentioned how you avoid touching dogs if they don't want to interact and that got me thinking about a sense I haven't written about yet. 

We've covered views, smells, music and now, I'm going to touch on, well... touch
Not the bitey kind of touch, but the soothing, calm, stroking kind.

The outside of a dog is good for our insides...
It's true. Patting a dog is something we enjoy. The tactile experience of touching something soft and warm is inherently pleasing

Research has shown that human oxytocin (=happy/social/feel good/"love" hormone) levels rise when we interact with our dogs. Our blood pressure and heart rates lower when we pat dogs, as do our cortisol (=stress hormone) levels.

These are just some of the reasons there is so much interest in researching further benefits of human-animal interactions and animal-assisted therapies.

...and we can be good for a dog's insides too!

Interestingly, other studies have shown that dogs' heart rate, cortisol levels and blood pressure can lower when we groom and pat them. Of course, this is not universal. Dogs are individuals and their preferences will vary.

Not all pats are equal

Research suggests that dogs prefer to be patted in a soothing way. Not really surprising - think of how we like to be touched and compare a back slap with a gentle stroke. I know which would be more likely to lower my heart rate and relax me!

A study that examined the reinforcing value of physical contact by grooming to dogs showed that length of grooming (longer=better) was more important than location of grooming in reducing heart rate.

What are you doing this week? I'm off to Sydney for a few days to meet with loads of different working dog groups to talk Action PlanI'll be sure to tell you all about it next time. 

Right now, I'm going to go give my dogs a nice long pat!

Further reading:

McGreevy P.D., Righetti J. & Thomson P.C. (2005). The reinforcing value of physical contact and the effect on canine heart rate of grooming in different anatomical areas, Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 18 (3) 236-244. DOI:

Coppola C.L., Grandin T. & Enns R.M. (2006). Human interaction and cortisol: Can human contact reduce stress for shelter dogs?, Physiology & Behavior, 87 (3) 537-541. DOI:

Hennessy M.B., Voith V.L., Hawke J.L., Young T.L., Centrone J., McDowell A.L., Linden F. & Davenport G.M. (2002). Effects of a program of human interaction and alterations in diet composition on activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in dogs housed in a public animal shelter, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 221 (1) 65-91. DOI:

Bergamasco L., Osella M.C., Savarino P., Larosa G., Ozella L., Manassero M., Badino P., Odore R., Barbero R. & Re G. & (2010). Heart rate variability and saliva cortisol assessment in shelter dog: Human–animal interaction effects, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 125 (1-2) 56-68. DOI:

Odendaal J.S.J. (2000). Animal-assisted therapy — magic or medicine?, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 49 (4) 275-280. DOI:

O'Haire M. (2010). Companion animals and human health: Benefits, challenges, and the road ahead, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 5 (5) 226-234. DOI:

© 2013 Mia Cobb
Share This Post :

You Might Also Like


  1. In my Psychology 101 class, we learned about positive and negative correlations. In this blog, there is a representation of a positive correlation. As interaction with our animal/dog increases, the higher our oxytocin (happy/feel good hormone) levels will be. Both are increasing, therefore the correlation is positive. However, there is also a negative correlation in the study. When we increase interaction with our animal/dog, our blood pressure & heart rate lowers, along with our stress hormone levels. One factor is increasing, the other is decreasing which means the correlation is negative. It's interesting to me, that such a simple interaction as patting a dog, can cause such positive health benefits. Who would of thought that something so easy could help us to be more happy & healthy?

    1. Pretty neat, huh?!

      This post picked up elements from a number of studies (as referenced in the further reading section) and there are many more papers that I didn't directly refer to that have demonstrated further correlations (in both directions!) that interacting with dogs - and other animals - is really good for us.

      A good example that brings many studies together to push the findings beyond correlation to actually demonstrating causation, is:

      Glenn N. Levine, Karen Allen, Lynne T. Braun, Hayley E. Christian, Erika Friedmann, Kathryn A. Taubert, Sue Ann Thomas, Deborah L. Wells, and Richard A. Lange. Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation, May 9 2013

      It's open access, so you can easily access it.



  2. Intuitively, you can relate these emotions to the dog's soft fur, loving manner, and sense of loyalty. However, is this true for a person who has been a victim of vicious dog attack? Could you correlate these types of relationships with having other types of pets....Perhaps a turtle. Is it the behavior of the animal that we can relate to or the emotional experiences that have given us pleasure or fear? These types of interactions relate to the study in behaviors and perspectives in psychology. In studying the psychodynamic perspective, the early life experiences of a person can effect and influence the a persons behavior towards the dog and the way they percieve their interaction. Having positive or negative experiences with these animals in general can effect the way people integrate data and process emotions therefore manifesting itself consciously or subconsciously. Cognitively effecting the outcome and emotion of the person without their knowledge later on in their lives.

    1. this is an edited version of the first post that i created at 2255

    2. Thanks - I deleted your earlier post so people came straight to this one - hope that was OK.

      Of course you are correct in that individual responses (of people and dogs) will differ. A good study that talks about bias within animal bond/attachment research is:

      Zasloff, R. L. (1996). Measuring attachment to companion animals: a dog is not a cat is not a bird. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 47(1), 43-48.

      I highly recommend reading it.

      Anthrozoology is a relatively young area of science and we learn so much more every year. It's an exciting time to be part of this field of research.



[name=Do You Believe in Dog?] [img=] [description=Do You Believe in Dog? is a popular canine science platform presented by Mia Cobb and Julie Hecht. We think it's important that everyone be able to access and understand the latest canine research.] (facebook= (twitter= (instagram= (instagram=

Follow @SunriseSunsetBlog