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Do Therapy Dogs Actually Like Their Jobs? Study Says Yes

CBS Local - It's easy to ask a person if they like their job or not, but what about our pets? A new study is shedding new light on how service dogs feel about their work and the news is apparently very positive.

The Details:

  • A study finds that therapy dogs are not stressed by their work and enjoy it
  • 26 service dogs were studied at work and at home to measure their stress levels
  • A stress hormone called cortisol is produced when experiencing both "good" and "bad" stress

A new study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science has found that therapy dogs are not "stressed" by their work with patients and actually seem to enjoy the activity in many cases. Over two dozen helper animals were studied to see how they behave when taken to see new patients compared to their stress levels at home.

"What made this study unique was that it was multisite—it took place in five different hospitals across the country—and the fact that we visited over a hundred patients and 26 dogs participated, making it the largest of its kind in this field," study lead author Amy McCullough said, via National Geographic. The scientists measured a hormone known as cortisol, which is produced in a dog's saliva when they experience both "good" and "bad" stress.

"Let's say we have a dog that loves to play ball—when the ball comes out and the dog starts chasing the ball, that would elevate the dog's cortisol levels as well," McCullough added. After observing a number of different dog behaviors, researchers found that each dog's cortisol levels stayed the same regardless of being in their work or home environment.

The study added that some activities made the therapy dogs happier in the workplace than others. McCullough explains that patients who engage in fun activities, like playing with a toy, will help the dog relieve more stress than a tedious activity such as brushing the animal. "This is good information for handlers—they can lean toward the activities that they think their dog would enjoy."

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