The use of therapy dogs has increased and the number of scientific papers examining the impact of therapy dogs on human health has also increased from 19 in 1990 to 698 in 2020. However, why canine therapy works remains something of a mystery. In a recent paper, researchers from Tufts University looked at two mechanisms that might underlie any benefits of canine therapy – social support and the physical contact provided by the dogs. The researchers were confident that teen anxiety would drop in the presence of the dogs but wanted to explore possible mechanisms for such a drop. However, the researchers found that the therapy dogs had no impact whatsoever on teen anxiety among the study participants. The dogs had no effect on self-reported anxiety scores, no effect on heart rate and skin response and no effect on the error rate in the task set for the subjects.
Herzog, Harold, "Study Finds Therapy Dogs Have No Effect on Anxiety in Teens" (2021). One Health. 2.