This study was conducted to investigate the levels of disturbances that affected dog owners and their dogs while attending a 5 day training course of the Animals as Therapy in Vienna, Austria to become therapeutic teams in animal-assisted therapy. Cortisol samples were taken from 32 humans and their dogs (18 female and 15 male animals) during 3 training courses (11-15 August 2002, 18-22 April 2003 and 11-15 August 2003). The concentration of cortisol in saliva was measured using an enzyme immunoassay. It was observed that the cortisol concentrations of the dogs were significantly lower than the humans. Cortisol concentration was also higher in humans at day 5 of the training which was the day of the final examination. However, the level of cortisol in saliva of the dogs did not differ during the course of the training. The animals showed an insignificant trend of increased salivary cortisol levels during the first 3 days of the courses when compared with the other days of their training and even had the lowest cortisol-median of all investigated days on day 5. This may be caused by the fact that the dogs got used to the new socio-ecologic circumstances that had bothered them at the beginning of their training. Age and sex did not significantly affect the cortisol levels in both humans and dogs, but more female dogs completed their training than male dogs. The results indicate that the training courses for working in animal-assisted therapy provided disturbance for the participating humans on the day of their examinations. On average, no such disturbing situations could be detected among the dogs and that the training is not stressful for the animals. It is recommended that further studies should be performed to evaluate the cortisol levels in human and dog teams during their therapeutic work in animal-assisted therapy to gain related information and possible comparisons.
|Publication Title||Wiener Tierarztliche Monatsschrift|
|Author Address||Institute for Anthropology at the University Vienn, Vienna, Austria. email@example.com|
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