The study, conducted by the University of Montreal and published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology has found that specially trained dogs are able to significantly reduce anxiety levels in autistic children.
Children with autism find it extremely difficult to understand the emotions and feeling of others, but when given a dog to play with they seemed to develop social skills with far more ease than those without a dog.
The study, conducted by Dr Sonia Lupien involved asking parents to complete a questionnaire addressing the behaviours of their children before, during and after the introduction of the dog.
In addition to this the amount of the stress hormone cortisol was also measured in the saliva of the children.
On average, parents counted 33 problematic behaviours prior to living with the dog, and only 25 while living with the animal.
Dr Lupien said: ‘Introducing service dogs to children with ASD has received growing attention in recent decades. Until now, no study has measured the physiological impact. Our results lend support to the potential behavioural benefits of service dogs for autistic children.’
She also said that the introduction of a canine friend for affected children could be a very simple solution to help families cope in challenging conditions and very rarely has she seen such a clear impact on the children’s stress hormone levels.