Research Says Petting Dogs Is Good For Our Brain

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis

Not that we needed any scientific proof, but there’s new research that shows petting a dog positively impacts our brains.


They don’t call them ‘therapy dogs’ for nothing. No, there’s definitely something very therapeutic about petting a pup, whether they’re a therapy dog or not. Anecdotally, we know this, as we always feel a bit better after giving Fluffy a good belly rub.

But research backs that up, suggesting that there really is a difference in our mood, and that we can’t be tricked by petting stuffed dogs. We want the real deal!

The study was published in Plus One, and was a controlled study in which researchers used brain scans to look at the differences in humans when they pet real dogs versus their brain scans when they pet a stuffed dog. 

What they found wasn’t surprising, but certainly encouraging as we already know that the dopamine reactions that occur when petting dogs are therapeutic.

The study participants who pet the real dogs had significantly noticeable boosts in their brain activity. This was especially obvious in their frontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with how we feel and think. This area of the brain impacts our mood.

The University of Basel in Switzerland doctoral student Rahel Marti was the study’s lead author. In an interview with CNN, Marti said, “We chose to investigate the frontal cortex because this brain area is involved in several executive functions, such as attention, working memory, and problem-solving. But it is also involved in social and emotional processes.”

Though we all have a hunch that we didn’t need science to prove this, the additional evidence may help when treating patients with deficits in socioemotional function, motivation and attention, as well as depression. 

Dogs for the win!

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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