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Abstract

This article provides a review of research published since 1980 on the benefits of human-companion animal interaction. Studies focusing on the benefits of pet ownership are presented first, followed by research on the benefits of interacting with companion animals that are not owned by the subject (animal-assisted activities). While most of the published studies are descriptive and have been conducted with convenience samples, a promising number of controlled studies support the health benefits of interacting with companion animals. Future research employing more rigorous designs and systematically building upon a clearly defined line of inquiry is needed to advance our knowledge of the benefits of human-companion animal interaction.
... Published surveys have focused on basic needs among people experiencing homelessness (PEH), including good health, stable income, and permanent housing (Linn & Gelberg, 1989). Previous studies have examined the association between pet ownership and mental health (Barker & Wolen, 2008;Friedmann & Krause-Parello, 2018;Krause-Parello, 2012), but few have examined the relative significance of pets in the lives of PEH. Consistently, PEH have demonstrated very high levels of attachment to their pets (Gelberg et al., 2004;Irvine et al., 2012;Labrecque & Walsh, 2011;Rew, 2000;Singer et al., 1995). ...
... The benefits of the human-animal bond are important in vulnerable subgroups, including people who live alone, those exposed to stressful situations and, by extension, people experiencing homelessness (Cleary et al., 2019(Cleary et al., , 2020Friedmann & Krause-Parello, 2018;Yang et al., 2020;Zasloff & Kidd, 1994). Caring for an animal companion while homeless can serve as a source of emotional support and help improve mental health outcomes (Barker & Wolen, 2008;Fitzgerald, 2007;Friedmann & Krause-Parello, 2018;Lem et al., 2013;Rew, 2000). Evidence suggests that this may also reduce the risk of suicide (Fitzgerald, 2007;Lem et al., 2013). ...
... Promoting pet ownership is commonly seen as a promising approach to improve individuals' well-being in later life, as pet ownership has been shown to be associated with increased physical activity (Serpell 1991), better health (Anderson et al. 1992), reduced loneliness (Barker and Wolen 2008), and a greater ability to successfully cope with stressful life events (Siegel 1990). Pet owners often consider their pets as friends, providing support and motivation in their daily lives (Knight and Edwards 2008). ...
... Loneliness and social disconnectedness can have a significant impact on older adults (Hawkley and Cacioppo 2007;Holt-Lunstad et al. 2010;Stanley et al. 2014), and finding new strategies such as promoting pet ownership to reduce the negative impact of isolation on mental health among older adults may have large welfare effects (Barker and Wolen 2008). Older individuals with fewer close human ties may especially benefit from owning a pet, as single, divorced, or widowed individuals often choose pets as substitutes for the missing partnership (Archer 1997). ...
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While interactions with pets may yield significant emotional, social, and physical benefits, taking care of them can also be demanding and experienced as a burden, especially among persons with physical restrictions or economically disadvantaged individuals. This study investigates pet ownership and corresponding perceptions and experiences in a nationally representative sample of adults aged 55 years and older in Switzerland. We use data from a questionnaire on human-animal interactions from 1832 respondents administered during wave 7 (2017) in the Swiss country study of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe. Multivariable associations between pet ownership and pet owners’ corresponding perceptions and experiences with respondents’ socio-demographic characteristics were estimated using probit and ordered probit models. Slightly more than one-third of adults aged 55 years and older reported owning a pet. Pet owners reported mostly positive experiences with pet ownership, with women showing higher pet bonding levels than men. Moreover, pet ownership was less common among adults aged 75 and older and individuals living in apartments. At the same time, older pet owners aged 75 and above, pet owners living in apartments, and pet owners without a partner reported more positive perceptions and experiences of owning a pet. These findings suggest that promoting pet ownership may help individual well-being and feelings of companionship, especially among women, older adults, and individuals without a partner but also points toward potential selection effects into pet ownership. Financial costs of pet ownership appear to be an important challenge for some older pet owners, notably those with relatively low levels of education and more limited financial resources.
... Thus, much of the research just discussed has employed a relatively narrow and traditional set of methodologies to examine the interactions of humans and animals in cities. These include analyses of secondary data and archival materials, content analysis of popular media, ethnographic interviews with humans involved with animals such as wildlife interpreters, descriptive studies from interviews, surveys often using convenience samples, discourse analysis of human subjects, direct observation of animal subjects and field diaries, and focus groups (Barker & Wolen, 2008;Beck & Katcher, 1984;Dowling et al., 2017;Hodgetts & Lorimer, 2015;Lloro, 2018). ...
... Collaboration across disciplines can also address methodological limitations in social science approaches to studying the nature and benefits of the human-companion animal bond. The medical benefits of having animals in the home and animal-assisted therapies are generally supported in research but there has been a good deal of conflicting findings (Barker & Wolen, 2008). This in part may be the result of the survey methods typically employed by social scientists and the clinical trials conducted by medical researchers employing randomization and controls (Heady, 2003). ...
... Many studies have suggested a positive association between interacting with an animal and psychological wellbeing (Barker and Wolen, 2008;Gilbey and Tani, 2015;Rodriguez et al., 2021). Studies of the impact of actual pet ownership, in contrast to interacting with a trained therapy or assistance animal, are less clear. ...
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Dog ownership is believed to benefit owner wellbeing but, contrary to popular belief, there is limited evidence to suggest that simply owning a dog is associated with improved mental health. This mixed-methods study investigates whether dog owners with stronger relationships with their dogs experience better mental health. Participants ( n = 1,693, adult United Kingdom dog owners) completed an online survey. Owners’ health was measured using the validated PROMIS questions regarding depression, anxiety, emotional support, and companionship. The dog–owner relationship was measured using the validated MDORS scale, which has three subscales: interaction, emotional closeness, and perceived costs. Univariable and multivariable linear regression analyses were conducted, adjusting for confounding factors. Additionally, positive and negative impacts of dog ownership on mental wellbeing were coded from open questions using thematic analysis. A stronger dog–owner relationship was associated with greater feelings of emotional support and companionship but poorer mental health in terms of anxiety or depression. However, the perceived costs (burden) subscale was consistently associated with better mental health outcomes. Direction of causality cannot be inferred as people with poor mental health may acquire dogs to help relieve symptoms, which qualitative analysis supported. Key themes included positive impacts on owner wellbeing and happiness through providing purpose, companionship and self-acceptance, pleasure and distraction, as well as lessening emotional pain and suffering and reducing risk behaviors. However, negative impacts of a strong relationship include anticipatory grief over loss of the dog, and concerns regarding the burden of responsibility and ability to meet dog’s needs. Perceived ability to adequately meet dog’s needs promoted personal growth and positive relationships with others, whereas perceived inability led to feelings of guilt, or anger/frustration, and reduced autonomy and sense of environmental mastery. Dog ownership contributes to both hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing in multiple ways, including supporting owners through periods of poor mental health and providing purpose. However, the burden of responsibility and owner and dog characteristics can create challenges, and owners may benefit from support in caring for their dogs and reducing problematic behaviors.
... Despite this commensalism, some authors have stressed that dogs were also domesticated for their special role as ‗companion' animals (Messent and Serpell, 1981;Serpell, 1986;1995;Beck et al., 2000). Currently, dogs occupy a unique place in human society (Morey, 2006), given that dogs produce positive effects on the health and well-being of people of all ages (Barker and Wolen, 2008;Beetz et al., 2012). ...
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We aimed to examine the role of dog presence in modulating human affective reactivity and sense of safety in emotional urban public spaces. College women (n=296) assessed valence, arousal, dominance, and safety in pictures depicting a man or a woman alone or accompanied by a small- or medium-sized dog in aversive and positive contexts. The results indicated that both dog sizes produce better assessments (i.e., higher valence, dominance, and sense of safety, and lower arousal) than the alone condition in high- and low- aversive (i.e., aversive/man and aversive/woman, respectively) and low-positive (i.e., positive/man) contexts. In highly positive contexts (i.e., positive/woman), the alone condition produces a similar assessment to small-sized dogs on arousal and dominance scales and medium-sized dogs on dominance and safety scales. When comparing dog sizes, small dogs produce better assessments in most emotional contexts. Those results overall indicated that dog presence itself (regardless of dog size) affects participants’ assessment in aversive and low-positive contexts; however, specific dog features such as size, rather than dog presence itself, are more important in high-positive contexts, indicating a ceiling effect. This study highlights the need to consider the emotionality of public settings when assessing the positive dog effect in scenes in which people are portrayed.
... In contrast, outdoor cat management can have a negative impact on human well-being. Interactions with free-roaming and unowned cats can relieve people's stress and improve human health (e.g., Barker & Wolen 2008, Levy & Crawford 2004. Cats can also contribute to killing pests such as mice. ...
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Message framing contributes to an increase in public support for invasive species management. However, little is known about people's preferences for the multiple objectives of management within different contexts relating to the challenges and benefits of invasive species management. We examine Japanese citizens' preferences for the goals of free-roaming unowned cat (Felis catus) management in three contextual frames by applying experimentally controlled information and the best-worst scaling technique. Our results indicate that the ecological frame highlighting the ecological impacts of free-roaming unowned cats on native ecosystems significantly increases Japanese citizens' concern about cat predation, although the frame did not change the preference ranking of goals. There are differences in the effects of message framing depending on cat ownership. The best-worst scaling technique shows that Japanese citizens prefer to maintain a sanitary environment, followed by the prevention of zoonotic diseases. Although the ranking of sanitary environmental management does not depend on cat ownership, the ranking of the other goals differs depending on cat ownership. The findings highlight the importance of strategic message framing and its prioritization in encouraging public support for invasive species management.
... Within HAI research, much has been written on the benefits of human guardianship and interaction with companion animals, whether through companionship, emotional support, health benefits, or assistance with tasks [11,12]. While not unreasonable to hypothesise that those animal species that humans form bonds with may feel the same way, we must avoid assumptions without objective evidence. ...
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Dogs play an important role in many western societies, providing companionship, emotional support, and assistance, as well as other more specialist roles. The literature reveals that many human–animal interaction (HAI) questionnaires exist to measure the human–dog bond (HDB). The first part of this study assessed how far existing questionnaires went in measuring HDB (defined as the unique, dynamic and reciprocated relationship between a person and dog, one in which each member can influence the other’s psychological and physiological state). A systematic literature review revealed that a common limitation in HDB questionnaires was a lack of questions based on the dog’s investment in the bond and, therefore, a failure to measure the two-way characteristic of the HDB. This led to the second part of the study: to identify novel themes relating to dog investment in the HDB from which new tool questions could be developed. This was investigated qualitatively using twelve semi-structured interviews on HDB, undertaken with participants from a variety of dog–guardian relationship types. HDB themes that emerged included ‘adaptation’, ‘understanding of a dog’s preferences, likes, and dislikes’, and ‘affirmation’. Subthemes included ‘boundaries’ and ‘expectations’ (within adaptation), ‘excitement’, ‘proximity’, ‘affection’, and ‘recall’ (within affirmation). The themes that arose provide a foundation from which to build new lines of questioning within HDB tools. Such questioning can better represent a dog’s investment in the HDB and, therefore, help create tools that reflect the reciprocal nature of a bond more accurately.
... One frequently proposed mechanism in DTPs is the HAB: the social attachment between people and their companion animals [16]. Various studies show physiological and psychological benefits of human-animal interaction [17]. In this study, we focused on two frequently reported outcomes of PBDPs: decrease in stress, e.g., [18] and increase in self-esteem, e.g., [12]. ...
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This study examined to what extent the human–animal bond (HAB) had a positive impact on stress and self-esteem among detained juveniles participating in the prison-based dog training program Dutch Cell Dogs (DCD). Participants were 75 detained juveniles (mean age = 19.5, 86.7% male). Self-reported stress and self-esteem were assessed before the start of DCD (T1), after four weeks (halfway training/T2) and after eight weeks (end training/T3). Structured interviews and questionnaire items were used to measure the HAB quality and perceived reciprocity in the HAB at T2 and T3. Data were analyzed using Structural Equation Modeling. In the variable-centered approach analyses, only the cross-sectional positive association between HAB quality and self-esteem at T2 was significant in the cross-lagged panel models. None of the cross-lagged paths between the HAB and stress or self-esteem were significant. In the person-centered approach analyses, growth mixture modeling identified two patterns of self-esteem (“high stable” and “high decreasing”); however, these patterns were not predicted by HAB. Thus, in contrast to our hypotheses, the HAB did not predict improvements in detained juveniles’ stress and self-esteem. These findings underline the need for more research into the often-presumed role of HAB within prison-based dog training programs.
Chapter
Kapitel enthält: emotionale, soziale und ethische Aspekte von Berührungen; Placeboeffekte; Embodiment; Haus- und Therapietiere; Einsamkeit. - Abstract: Im medizinischen Kontext können von erforderlichen Berührungen, die einem medizinischen oder pflegerischen Zweck dienen, soziale Berührungen unterschieden werden. Diese, oft spontan auftretenden Berührungen, erfüllen soziale oder emotionale Funktionen. Soziale Berührungen können beruhigend, tröstend, angst-, schmerz- oder stressreduzierend wirken. Es besteht somit die Möglichkeit, soziale Berührungen im medizinischen oder pflegerischen Kontext gezielt zu diesen Zwecken einzusetzen.
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Face-to-face ‘Pet Bereavement Counselling’ (PBC) has been established in private practice to support bereaved animal companion owners, however, to date no research has been conducted on PBC. This study aimed to contribute to the existing knowledge base on animal companion loss and provide a preliminary research base on the potential salience of PBC. Six qualified and accredited PBC therapists were recruited and took part in semi-structured interviews. An inductive thematic analysis revealed participants’ perspectives on the acknowledgement of animal companion loss societally and within counselling professions, the diverse ways animal companion loss can impact on bereaved owners, as well as the distinctive attributes and delivery of PBC. The findings have implications for how animal companion loss is conceptualised within counselling professions, teaching and research. Future research recommendations include exploring how bereaved owners experience PBC and how mental health professionals can build upon the support provided to bereaved owners.
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Les enfants atteints d’un cancer doivent faire face à la maladie, à de fréquentes hospitalisations, à des traitements agressifs, et à plusieurs effets secondaires des traitements. La combinaison de ces stresseurs peut entraîner des effets indésirables sur les plans biopsychosociaux. Un programme de zoothérapie, «La Magie d’un rêve», a été conçu pour les enfants hospitalisés en oncologie pédiatrique afin de promouvoir leur bien-être pendant l’hospitalisation et de faciliter leur adaptation au processus thérapeutique. L’objectif principal de cette étude préliminaire est d’évaluer, de façon descriptive, l’implantation de ce programme et ce, à partir du modèle de qualité de Donabedian. Plus spécifiquement, cette étude vise à documenter le lien observé entre le fait de bénéficier du programme, la qualité des soins, et la satisfaction des parents et des infirmières participantes. Un total de 16 parents d’enfants et de 12 infirmières a participé à l’étude d’implantation et a constitué l’échantillon. Les données ont été recueillies au moyen de deux questionnaires d’évaluation autoadministrés destinés aux parents et d’un questionnaire destiné aux infirmières. L’évaluation de la qualité du service de zoothérapie inclut des préoccupations reliées au profil des usagers du programme, au processus d’intervention de zoothérapie, à la structure organisationnelle, et aux résultats clientèles. Il semble qu’une thérapie assistée d’un chien puisse contribuer à alléger la détresse psychologique des enfants et des parents, à faciliter leur adaptation au processus thérapeutique, et à promouvoir leur bien-être pendant l’hospitalisation. Une seconde phase du projet aura pour but de vérifier l’efficacité de l’intervention de zoothérapie en visant plus particulièrement les enfants hospitalisés pour le traitement d’une tumeur solide.
Article
This chapter suggests that the evolutionary development of the human brain was shaped by the necessity to forage and hunt. As a by-product of this necessity, humans have an innate tendency to pay attention to animals and the natural surroundings. The tendency to pay attention to animals is in turn associated with an increased capacity for response inhibition, which is particularly enabling for children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or those who have difficulty learning from lecture or textual materials. Individuals with ADHD often tend to have more spontaneity than normal individuals. Their thinking is at times unrestrained and creative, but at other moments is quite disorganized and tangential. Their speech patterns are compromised in which they exhibit inarticulateness, disfluencies, and psycholinguistic impairments. They act unpredictably and lack the intermediate reflection between impulse and action that is required for goal-directed or context-regulated behavior. The central focus of disinhibition and the inadequacies of accommodating responses to situational demands result in a panoply of symptoms associated with ADHD, including behavioral impulsivity, disruptiveness, variability in attention and performance, disorganization, interpersonal tactlessness, impatience, mood changes, and sensation seeking typically in the form of risk-taking behaviors.
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A pets as therapy (PAT) programme was initiated in a closed ward of a major psychiatric hospital. The effect of regular contact with a dog on a selected group of chronic ward-bound patients suffering from dementia was assessed over a 12 week period using a number of measures. These included global measures of daily functioning, physiological measures (blood pressure and heart rate) and a measure of general ward noise levels. A matched group from a similar closed ward was used as a control. Results indicated significant experimental group changes in heart rate and a substantial drop in noise levels in the experimental ward during the presence of the dog.
Article
Thesis (M.S.)--University of Nebraska Medical Center, 2000. Bibliography: leaves 24-27. Reprint of: "Observation scale of behavioral distress - revised" developed by Susan M. Jay and Charles Elliott was inserted.
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The therapeutic potential of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) was assessed in two case studies of emotionally disturbed children. Two boys (11 and 12 years of age) participated in weekly AAT sessions for 12 weeks. Progress of individual goals was assessed through The ADD-H Comprehensive Teacher Rating Scale (ACTeRS), direct observation and videotapes of the therapy sessions, Individual Education Plans (IEP), and post-intervention interviews with the participants, their families, and educational professionals. Data analysis revealed progress in most identified goals.
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Using a multi-dimensional, multi-measure approach, this study examined children's attachment to their pets and related three dimensions of such attachment—behavioral, affective and cognitive—to empathy and perceived competence. Child characteristics (age, sex), family characteristics (marital status, socioeconomic status, maternal employment and family size) and pet type (dog, cat) as influences on attachment to pets also were explored. Individual interviews were conducted with 120 children from kindergarten, second-and fifth-grades, and questionnaire responses were collected from one parent of each child. Pet attachment was higher for older children and those whose mothers were employed. Pet attachment related differently to empathy and perceived competence depending upon grade level.
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Three nursing homes in the Brisbane area took part in the study. The Moreton Bay Nursing Care Unit (20 females, 11 males) had a visiting dog (each week), the Returned Services League War Veterans Home (24 females, eight males) had a resident dog and the Wheeler Garden Settlement (25 females, seven males) the visiting researcher only (control). A desexed female whippet, 11 months old was used in this study.Tension and confusion were reduced in the nursing home with a resident dog (x2 = 21.18, d.f. = 10, P = 0.02; x2 = 35.42, d.f. = 10, P = 0.0001, respectively).The resident dog group showed significant decreases in depression (x2 = 31.19, d.f. = 10, P = 0.0005) as did the control group (x2 = 29.8, d.f. = 10, P = 0.0009; x2 = 23.4, d.f. = 10, P = 0.009).Significant increases in vigour were found in all three nursing homes (visiting dog, x2 = 43.91, d.f. = 10, P = 0.0005; resident dog, x2 = 42.92, d.f. = 10, P = 0.0005; control, x2 = 38.52, d.f. = 10, P = 0.0005).Fatigue decreased significantly in the visiting and resident dog groups (x2 = 21.58, d.f. = 10, P = 0.02; x2 = 19.45, d.f. = 10, P = 0.03, respectively).This long-term study indicates that there are many benefits from having a resident dog in a nursing home. However, if this is not an option, visiting dogs and/or visiting people improve the lives of nursing home residents.