The 49ers hold puppy therapy ahead of NFC Championship Game

ByAnthony Gharib ESPN logo
Saturday, January 27, 2024

Ahead of the NFC Championship Game, the San Francisco 49ers are calming their nerves with puppy therapy, courtesy of the Humane Society Silicon Valley, which works to build "a more compassionate community by saving homeless pets."

The puppies visited the 49ers on Friday, two days before San Francisco faces the Detroit Lions for a spot in Super Bowl LVIII.

Players such as George Kittle and Chase Young couldn't help but cuddle the furry animals. They also answered questions on TikTok while holding the puppies.

San Francisco has a chance to reach its third Super Bowl this century, though they have yet to win one since 1995.

Dogs and 49ers are not a new pairing. In 2018, San Francisco became the first NFL team to adopt an emotional support animal, a French bulldog named Zo.

"The players rely on Zo to brighten their day," a 49ers spokesperson told CNN in 2019. "Meetings, practice and workouts can make for a long day. Zo acts as a stress reliever."

Animal therapy potentially has a positive impact on athletes.

A 2021 study by the European Journal of Sport Science found that therapy dogs can provide physiological benefits associated with stress and the oxytocin system plus psychological benefits for anxiety and motivation. However, the effects have "not yet been systematically investigated in athletes."

Young has six dogs himself and spoke about their importance when he was traded to San Francisco this season.

"Their energy inspires me because I look at myself on the field as a dog," he said. "Being that dog, day in and day out, keeping up that energy and focus every day."