Washington, D.C. (October 28, 2019) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Pet Partners announced today a grant to the University of British Columbia for a new study, Direct Experimental Assessment of Therapy Dog Handlers on Child and Dog Behavior During Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI). This study will aim to determine how different therapy animal handler styles influence stress behavior in both children and dogs during animal-assisted therapy sessions.
“Pet Partners has long been the gold standard for therapy animal handler training and this study will help provide scientific evidence to guide handler best practices to maximize the benefits of the intervention,” said Annie Peters, President and CEO of Pet Partners. “We are proud to partner with HABRI in supporting human-animal bond research that will help inform best practices and foster consistency in the profession.”
“Therapy dog handlers are trained to be active in sessions and interact with the participants and the dogs alike, however the handling procedures can be inconsistent, and often not even measured across sessions,” added Megan Arant, MS, Principal Investigator. “It is possible that the handler variation of in-session procedures with their own therapy dogs is also influencing the participants through altering the way the dog is presented as well as altering the dogs’ own behavior, which could cause discrepancies in the therapeutic effect. Therefore, it is beneficial to create a consistent standard for how handlers are instructed to interact with their dogs in AAI sessions to ensure homogeneity.”
This study aims to provide empirical data on how to improve outcomes of AAI sessions. Specifically, the study focuses on one largely neglected area, namely how the owner-handler of the therapy dogs interacts with their own dog in the session, and subsequently influences the dog’s behavior and the therapeutic effect of the session. By targeting handler behavior and manipulating factors such as leash restriction and food delivery, the researchers will provide meaningful evidence that can push the field of AAI further forward and create better session outcomes for many different populations while highlighting the wellbeing of the therapy dog.
For this experiment, the researchers will recruit 21 therapy dog teams and 21 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A within-subject group design with repeated measures will be used to determine the outcomes of typically-employed handler styles. While the study’s design will include an analysis of differing handling styles, all interactions with the therapy animals will uphold the highest possible considerations of animal welfare as well as Pet Partners’ therapy animal standards of practice. Investigations of effects of these common handling styles will be conducted through behavioral observations using the validated OHAIRE-V3 coding system and salivary cortisol measures. Principal Investigator Megan Arant, MS, and co-investigators Alexandra Protopopova, PhD, University of British Columbia, and Erica Feuerbacher, PhD, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, expect that the most restrictive handling of the therapy dogs will have negative effects for both dogs and children with ASD. They predict that restrictive handling will result in less therapeutic benefit of the dog for the child as measured by behavioral coding and salivary cortisol. They also predict that restrictive handling will result in increased stress and salivary cortisol concentration of the dogs.
“While research demonstrates the benefit of animal-assisted therapy for helping children with ASD through reducing anxiety and stress and helping improve social skills and behavior, consistency in handler procedures is needed and scientific research can help determine what is most optimal,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “HABRI is grateful for the partnership and support from Pet Partners for this important research, which will help more broadly account for the therapeutic effects of therapy dogs.”
About Pet Partners
Pet Partners is the national leader in demonstrating and promoting the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted interventions. Since the organization’s inception in 1977, the science proving these benefits has become indisputable. With more than 13,000 registered teams making more than 3 million visits annually, Pet Partners serves as the nation’s most prestigious nonprofit registering handlers of multiple species as volunteer teams. Pet Partners teams visit with patients in recovery, people with intellectual disabilities, seniors living with Alzheimer’s, students, veterans with PTSD, and those approaching end of life, improving human health and wellbeing through the human-animal bond. With the recent release of its Standards of Practice for Animal-Assisted Interventions and international expansion, Pet Partners is globally recognized as the industry gold standard. For more information on Pet Partners, visit www.petpartners.org.
HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit www.habri.org.
More Press Releases
Pet Giving Network Portal Now Open, Enabling Pet Care Companies to Help Pets with Coordinated Disaster Relief
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today that The Pet Giving Network, launched in collaboration with the Greater Good Charities, is open and ready to serve as a vital resource to connect the pet care community with frontline rescuers helping pets in need. Those interested in becoming Pet Giving Network Partners can sign-up today at www.habri.org/giving-network. “With wildfires raging and hurricane season upon us, it is important to recognize that pets are vulnerable, and resources allocated to helping pets threatened by disasters are often scarce. When pets are in danger so are their owners, which is why it is so important for the pet care community to be organized and ready to provide help,” said Steven Feldman, president of HABRI. The Pet Giving Network allows interested companies and organizations to register as Pet Giving Network Partners, which connects them to a system of action alerts about specific pet needs. Partners can offer to donate supplies and resources, which are then reviewed by a member of the Pet Giving Network team so the donation can be connected to rescuers on the ground. After matching these donated supplies to a recipient, Greater Good Charities coordinates with entities in regions affected by natural disaster ensure that supplies are delivered where and when they are needed, avoiding unnecessary waste and allowing organizations around the country to act as a united pet care community when disaster strikes. “The World Pet Association couldn’t think of a better time than during SuperZoo 2021 to spotlight the Pet Giving Network,” said Vic Mason, President of the World Pet Association. “We look forward to working with our members and HABRI to support this important initiative, which will save the lives of many pets in need.” “The Pet Giving Network is a wonderful example of the good that the pet care community can do when we work together,” said Steve King, President and CEO of the American Pet Products Association...
Will Reading to Rabbits Improve Student Skills?
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $13,000 grant to the Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies for a new study, Listening EARS: How Does Reading to Rabbits Affect Reading Skills of Third Grade Students?, to uncover how reading aloud to a non-threatening presence, like a classroom rabbit, helps improve students’ reading skills. “The human-animal bond can lessen the stress young children can feel when taking on challenging tasks in the classroom, like reading aloud,” said Dr. Annie Petersen, Ed.D., Principal Investigator in the Listening EARS study. “This study will provide us with a valuable tool to understand and act on the benefits of small animals to student learning and development.” By utilizing small animals already present in classrooms (e.g. rabbits and guinea pigs), it is predicted that classroom interactions with an animal will improve 3rd grade students’ oral fluency and reading comprehension, two essential measures of academic success. “HABRI is committed to studying the impact of companion animals on child health and development,” said Steve Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “This new research will contribute to the growing body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the benefits of pets in the classroom.”
New HABRI Survey: Knowledge That Pets Improve Our Health Boosts Animal Welfare
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation today announced the findings of a new survey on the impact of knowledge of the scientific benefits of the human-animal bond on how pet owners care for their companion animals. The survey asked pet owners about their awareness of research that shows pets improve human health and found that this knowledge has the power to motivate them to take better care of their pets in important ways. “Scientific research shows that pets are good for our health, improving heart health, relieving stress and positively impacting conditions from autism to PTSD,” said HABRI Executive Director, Steven Feldman. “Now, for the first time, we have data to show that it’s a two-way street – when we know how good pets are for us, we are more likely to take better care of them!” According to the survey, seventy-one percent of pet owners were aware of scientifically-documented health benefits from pets. Most importantly, when asked how knowledge of the scientific research on the human-animal bond would affect their actions: 89% of pet owners said they were more likely to take better care of their pets 75% of pet owners said they were more likely to microchip a pet to ensure it can be found if lost or stolen 51% of pet owners said they were more likely to purchase pet health insurance 62% of pet owners said they were less likely to skip visits to the veterinarian 74% of pet owners said they were less likely to give up a pet for any reason 88% of pet owners said they were more likely to provide their pets with high-quality nutrition 92% of pet owners said they were more likely to maintain their pet’s health, including keeping up with vaccines and preventative medicine The survey also examined how different generations of pet owners viewed and reacted to the human-animal bond. For millennials, in particular, learning about the scientific research on the health benefits of pets had a large impact: 80% of millennials said this...