Therapy dogs and school wellbeing: a qualitative study

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Abstract

The present study investigated the effects of animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) with therapy dogs on the school wellbeing of kindergarten to year 12 students, and important considerations and challenges for implementing therapy dog AAIs in school settings. Participants were 118 school leaders, teachers, school mental health professionals, and researchers with experience with therapy dog AAIs for school-aged students. Participants completed a survey with 16 open-ended items about the positive and negative effects of therapy dogs on students’ school wellbeing and important factors for implementing therapy dog AAIs in their school settings. Participants perceived that therapy dogs facilitate improvements in students’ social and learning engagement, and their emotional and behavioral wellbeing. However, participants raised concerns about potential safety risks for students and therapy dogs during their interactions. To address these challenges, participants perceived the importance of establishing expectations and rules for how students interact with therapy dogs and standardized regulations to ensure that therapy dog AAIs are implemented safely in kindergarten to year 12 school settings.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

Keywords

  • Animal-assisted intervention
  • School
  • Student
  • Therapy dog
  • Wellbeing

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