Dogs have long been known as a great companion to humankind, but new research now suggests that they can be implicitly used to boost the moods of teenagers undergoing alcohol and drug treatment.
A report by Science Daily revealed how every Friday afternoon, four dogs are taken from the Spokane Humane Society in Washington to the Excelsior Youth Center, where teenage boys are going through residential treatment.
Here the young boys are allowed to groom, feed and play with the dogs, and the result is a serious uplift in their moods. Lindsay Ellsworth, a doctoral candidate in animal sciences at Washington State University, explained that the teenagers described their frame of mind as "'excited', 'energetic' and 'happy'".
"We found one of the most robust effects of interacting with the dogs was increased joviality," she said.
To show these moods were a marked improvement, Ms Ellsworth split the boys into two groups of eight, with one interacting with the dogs and the other playing pool, video games and basketball.
Using the range of 60 mood descriptors in PANAS-X, a self-reporting methodology used by organisation psychologists to show the scale of emotion, the boys noted how they felt before and after the activity.
Those who interacted with the dogs showed not only increases in joviality but also a boost in attentiveness and serenity, while overall sadness declined.
"It's an opportunity for kids in a real chaotic life, making unhealthy choices, to focus in on a specific task with an animal," said Robert Faltermeyer, executive director at the youth centre.
"It empowers them to make positive changes even on the simplest scale of correcting the animal's behaviour."
This shows how dogs are a great way for people in general, not just teenagers in treatment, to increase their happiness. There's no better way to get rid of the blues than mucking around with a mutt.
Written by: Hannah