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What health benefit do dogs provide for humans? And at what cost for dogs?

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Presentation on theme: "What health benefit do dogs provide for humans? And at what cost for dogs?"— Presentation transcript:

1 What health benefit do dogs provide for humans? And at what cost for dogs?

2 Dogs used in wide variety of settings Therapy dogs: – Reading programs – Hospitals, nursing homes, etc. – Calming dogs during crises – General health benefits of pets Service Dogs: – Physical assistance – Diabetes, seizure, etc. detection – Autism dogs – PTSD dogs – Other types of services

3 But how might dogs provide benefits for socialization? Investigation examined how a dog altered social interactions when an individual walked with their dog. Basic idea: dogs = social magnets – Dogs provide something to talk about – Dogs are soothing for both walker and observer – Dogs increase social presence

4 McNichols and Collis, 2000 Many reports that pet ownership provides enhanced psychological and physical well- being – Many ways this may be true – May be calming, prompt relaxation – Promote sense of well being – Provide bonding and affection – Provide physical health benefits – Provide social benefits

5 McNichols and Collis Authors suggest a hidden benefit – Dogs provide increased human to human interactions – Pet ownership (more likely dog ownership) increases human contact for the owners That is, dogs may be people-magnets!

6 Study 1 Examine the number of interactions experienced by a dog handler But: did not restrict to “dog areas”, but included more general areas such as a college campus Used a trained dog: dog was trained NOT to elicit interactions from people, so dog did not actively increase interactions rather than people initiating the interactions

7 Method Experimenter was participant observer – Did not greet people or engage in behavior likely to be interpreted as soliciting interactions Method: – Guide dog in training (lab mix) – Dog accompanied experimenter for 5 days; experimenter alone for 5 days Accompanied individual as she went about her daily routine Then no dog condition

8 Method Measures of social interactions – Number of interactions – Length of interactions – Gender of interactions – Whether interaction was friend, acquaintance or stranger

9 Results and Discussion 156 interactions when with dog; 50 when not – 123 interactions with female, 83 with male – Dog vs. no dog condition significantly different – Significantly more encounters with acquaintances and strangers No change in length of encounters More social interactions when with dog and these social interactions were more likely to be with less familiar or unfamiliar people! Some carryover effect into no dog condition: wanted to know where the dog was!

10 Study 2 Examined robustness of social catalyst: – What effect did appearance of dog and handler have on interactions Used trained dog again White male undergrad student in mid 30’s – Smartly dressed condition with “pet dog” – Roughly dressed condition with more aggressive looking dog

11 Method, con’t Previous study showed dress of person and “look” of dog did influence perceptions of dog’s temperament – Re-used identical conditions Four locations of small English City – General area – High dog frequency area (dog park)

12 Method, con’t Experimenter stood for 30 minutes at each locale – Experimenter alone, smart dress – Experimenter alone, scruffy dress – Experimenter, smart dress, pet dog – Experimenter, scruffy dress, pet dog – Experimenter, smart dress, “rough” dog – Experimenter, scruffy dress, “rough”dog Recorded number of people who interacted with experimenter and length of interactions

13 Results Significant effect of dog vs no dog Main affect of dress: smart dress got more interactions than scruffy dress BUT: not a significant interaction between dress and presence of dog That is: presence of a dog more important than dress Type of dog had little to no effect: more interactions with a dog, regardless of look of the dog!

14 Discussion Catalysis effect of having dog present persisted regardless of type of dog or dress of experimenter Dogs are, indeed, people magnets and increase interactions between people! This may be an important therapeutic effect of having a dog. Question: would you predict same effect for cat ownership? Why or why not?

15 But: Does this hurt the dogs? Burrows, et al., 2008 Recent study examined factors affecting behavior and welfare of service dogs for children with autism Wanted to determine how dogs benefited families and children, and what effect the assignment had on dogs per year

16 Service dogs used for many years Dogs for the blind since 1960s More recently begun to use for many other kinds of disabilities In Canada, starting placing service dogs with children with autism in 1997 Currently place dogs per year At time of study, 92 dogs had been placed

17 Early training Pretty standardized today: – months with puppy raiser – Socialization, basic obedience, etc. – Then, if pass series of tests, placed in intensive training for another few months – Then placed with child with autism based on a match

18 What kind of characteristics? Temperament Stable personalities Physical size Tractability Trainability Primary task for autism dog: safety – Dog tethered to child – Keep child from moving away – Must brace against child – Walked while tethered to child but leash held by adult (typically the parent)

19 What kind of welfare concerns to both the child and dog? For dog: – Daily stressors – Working demands – Satisfaction and predictability of basic physical needs – Opportunities for social interaction and environmental control – Opportunities for play, pleasure, minimal distress

20 What kind of welfare concerns to both the child and dog? For child and family: – Daily stressors – Risk for health and behavior problems – Minor conflicts between dog and family – Potential for aggression from dog – Extra demands of caring for dog as well as child with autism.

21 Method Followed 11 service dogs as placed into homes of children with autism over 6 month period Qualitative study: interviews and casual observation data – Identify and describe important patterns of behavior in interactional relationships between Service dog and child with autism Service dog and family members Family members and the child with autism

22 Interviews Parents interviews – During training week when dogs initially matched – 3 months after placement – 6 months after placement Asked about – Dog’s behavior – Interactions with family – Training problems – Expectations of dog within context of family – Successful events that had occurred when using the service dog

23 REsults 11 dogs were all retrievers – 6 males, 5 females – One dog retired after 9 weeks because of unwanted behavior, family received a second dog Performance: work behavior – Primary role = safety of child – Dogs prevented child from darting/running away – Some dogs alerted to SIB in child – Parents reported presence of dog immediately alleviated their safety concerns for their child

24 REsults Dog behaviors – 10/11 did not avoid being put into service jacket – Appeared excited when going out with family – 11 th dog: too fat for its jacket, did not settle down in jacket – 1 dog: ran after other dogs (dragging child); was returned – Second dog was returned due to high activity levels and chewing behavior

25 Results Physical Factors affecting dog’s behavior and welfare – Number of physical stressors – Insufficient rest/recovery time – Lack of recreational activities – Lack of relief for urinating/defecating – Being in jacket for long time – Unprovoked negative attention from child Children with autism was significant source of physical stress for dogs – Sleep disruptions both during day and night – When up all night, performed poorly the next day Parents adapted by giving dog a “day off”

26 Results Children with autism were significant source of physical stress for dogs Sleep disruptions both during day and night – When up all night, performed poorly the next day – Parents adapted by giving dog a “day off” Tantrums and aggressive behavior deleterious to dogs – Dogs often closet target for child’s anger – Dogs were occasionally hit, kicked, etc. Dogs developed ability to interpret and discriminate child’s behavior – Able to tell appropriate from inappropriate touch – Able to predict child’s behavior Dogs occasionally reacted to this stress with mild aggression – Growls – Escape attempts (moving away from child) – Also cowering, freezing, etc.

27 Results Problem of long time in jacket (this is cue for “on the job”) – Dogs appeared exhausted – Required significant rest-recovery at home – Restrictions on eating/drinking/toiletting – Lack of recreational activities and time off Dog behaviors in reaction included – Growling – Overexcitability – Defecating/urinating in home/school setting One important factor: predictability of schedule – Dogs better able to adapt if schedule was predictable – Performed better when kept in good physical health/groomed, etc.

28 Results Social interactions – Many parents expected dog to bond emotionally with child as well as provide safety – Dogs bonded to adult, more difficult with child Dogs did learn to ignore trainers and attend to parents/child Most closely bonded to primary handler (parent in most circumstances) – Looked to primary handler for affection/direction – Very devoted to primary handler (usually mother) – Often refused to remain in bedroom alone with child, preferred to be with parent If another dog in home, ignored that dog and other dog ignored service dog

29 What conclusions did authors make? Several significant themes: – Identification of potential physical stressors Lack of recovery time after working Unintentional maltreatment Prodding from child Lack of predictability in daily routine Insufficient recreational activities – Bonded to primary hander, and not necessarily child Child bond was always secondary

30 What is role of service dog? Trained for safety: keeping child from moving away Secondary roles included: – Alerting to dangerous situations – Distracting/comforting the child – Providing companionship to child Primary handler had to learn that service dog management very different from management of pet dog

31 Physical and Emotional Needs of Dog Really animal welfare issues – Regular food/water, appropriate nutrition, sufficient time and frequency for toileting – Social needs such as mental stimulation, companionship for the dog, predictability and control – Dog needed to have skills for coping with stress and challenges – Needed pleasurable recreational experiences to prevent health problems and anxiety

32 Predictors of successful placement Parents with previous dog ownership had more realistic expectations and were better able to resolve issues Realistic expectations by parents Realistic understanding of what was and was not a “behavior problem”

33 Importance of social interactions for the dog Data showed that it took longer for parents to become bonded to dog compared to typical service dog-client bonding for other types of service dogs Dogs received many mixed signals regarding social interactions – Expected to bond with primary handler and child with autism, but ignore rest of family – But, children with autism often have difficulty expressing affection, and this negatively affected health of dogs – Important that realize need for positive social interactions

34 Conclusion Identified a variety of stressors that affected health and welfare of dog – Many issues could be avoided with careful training and realistic expectations by parents – Must realize importance of scheduling down time, predictability and social interactions for the dogs – No doubt that this service was stressful for the dogs

35 Conclusion Intriguing last question: is it ethical (fair, appropriate, etc.) to require these dogs to service in this capacity? – Groups such as PETA suggest that this is slavery – Is this servitude? – Is this unethical to require dogs to serve in this capacity?


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