Effect of petting a dog on immune system function

Psychol Rep. 2004 Dec;95(3 Pt 2):1087-91. doi: 10.2466/pr0.95.3f.1087-1091.


The present study assessed the effect of petting a dog on secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels. 55 college students were randomly assigned to either an experimental group or one of two control groups. Group 1 (n= 19) petted a live dog; Group 2 (n = 17) petted a stuffed dog, while Group 3 (n = 19) simply sat comfortably on a couch. Each participant was exposed to one of the three conditions for 18 min. Pre- and posttreatment saliva samples yielded a significant increase in IgA for Group 1 only. Participants were also asked to complete the Pet Attitude Scale of Templer, Salter, Dickey, Baldwin and Veleber. Scores on this scale correlated with IgA increases only for participants in Group 2 (petting a stuffed animal). Results are discussed in terms of the beneficial effects of pets on health in general, and immunity in particular.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Human-Animal Bond*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompetence / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / blood*
  • Male
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Students / psychology


  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory