A study at Washington State University focused on college students, especially those students who may be at risk due to mental health issues or learning issues. The researchers developed a four-week program where students interacted with dogs for ten minutes a day. They found that the decreased stress levels lasted for six weeks.
Petting the dogs improved the student’s ability to plan, organize, concentrate, memorize and increased their motivation. The results showed that the students who were most at risk had the most improvements.
Author’s note: I believe that as researchers continue to refine their studies on the benefits that pets in general have on all people, they will be able to recommend the use of therapy animals in more specific ways.
Dr. Leanne Proops from the Department of Psychology of Portsmouth University conducted a study to see if children would respond positively to a robotic therapy dog vs a real dog. The researchers used a biomimetic robot at a West Sussex school with 34 children who ranged in age from 11 – 12. The robotic dog was a MiRo-E biomimetic robot developed by Consequential Robotics.
They also used two real therapy dogs, a Jack Russel mix and a Labrador who were from the Pets as Therapy group.
Before the therapy session the children were asked to fill out a questionnaire about how they felt about the real dogs and the robot. The researchers found that the children spent the same amount of time petting the real dogs and the robot, but they spent more time interacting with the robot.
The children did report that they preferred the session with the real dog. However, they did express more positive emotions after interacting with the robot.
Even though this was a small study, the researchers are hopeful that in cases where children are afraid of dogs or are allergic to them that robots could be a substitute for real therapy dogs. The robots could also become more available with little or no upkeep and training requirements.
My comment: However, there was no way based on this report to judge if the children interacted with the robot more because it was unique and different. Dogs are not uncommon for most children, robots are.
Dogs have proven themselves over and over again as a benefit to humans who are stressed or ill. Yet scientists have found another way that dogs can help people.
Often military personnel must be transported by air to distant facilities for treatment. These people are often in a state of chronic and acute stress as well as requiring medical care.
Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, Ph.D., R.N. who is a researcher at the Florida Atlantic University in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing has determined that therapy dogs have drastically helped these patients, especially those with PDST.
What is awesome is that the study was assisted by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Nursing; the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing, Uniformed Services University; TriService Nursing Research Program, Uniformed Services University; and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
This research is supported by The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) is the awarding and administering office (award number HT9404-12-1-TS06, N12-011). This research is sponsored by the TriService Nursing Research Program, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
It is a real plus that so many organizations supported this study and hopefully therapy dogs will be assigned to help the soldiers that need them.
Many people have accepted the use of therapy dogs to help people in various ways. However, a study was done on children ages 7 -9 who were diagnosed with ADHD and had never taken medication to control it.
Sabrina E. B. Schuck, PhD, MA, executive director of the UCI Child Development Center and assistant professor in residence in the Department of Pediatrics at UCI School of Medicine found that children with ADHD who received canine assisted intervention (CAI) experienced a reduction in inattention and an improvement in social skills.
They also found that the children who were in the CAI group had significantly fewer behavior problems over time than those treated without therapy dogs. This gives parents of children who do not want to use mediation an alternative treatment.
Connections: Animal Assisted Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias by Pam Osbourne, ISBN: 78-0-9993761-0-2, 144 pgs., $19.95, self-published
This is a great book for people who want to become involved in animal assisted therapy or who are already involved. The book is divided into three major parts with subsections in each part. It starts with the author’s personal experience with her parents and how their pet dog helped them. This section helps the reader understand more about Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the way is changes a person’s life and how to recognize the symptoms.
Part II explains what it takes to have your pet dog become a therapy dog. It outlines how the dog can help someone suffering from these diseases. The book also tells people who do not have access to an animal assistance group what to train their dog to do to be a therapy dog. The book does not outline how to train the dog, only what to train the dog.
Part III I feel is the best part of the book. It gives the reader a collection of activities that the handler can have the dog do to engage the patients. Each game or activity has a colored graph that shows the suitability of each game for the cognitive/functional impairment level of the patient.
Overall this is a unique book that can be a huge help for the handler and the therapy dog. The print, page and text quality of the book are good. It includes many color photos that show dogs performing the activities listed. However, many people will need the help of a professional dog trainer to teach the dog some of the activities listed in the book.