This study was conducted to formally evaluate the effectiveness of the Human Animal Bond in Colorado (HABIC, 2010), a well-developed animal-assisted therapy (AAT) intervention based in 23 elementary schools in the Front Range. Previous research on the benefits of human and dog relationships, otherwise called the human-animal bond, has provided support for using measures of attachment to rate the quality of connection within this dyad (Kurdek, 2008; Melson, 2003; Triebenbacher, 1998). The Emotional Availability (EA) Scales 4th Edition (Biringen, 2008), an attachment-derived system, were used to objectively evaluate the interactions in the human-animal team, representing the first use of the EA system to assess the quality of the human-animal bond. In addition, the Bonding Scale (Angle, Blumentritt, & Swank, 1994) was used to assess the child's report of bonding to the dog; the Child Behavior Checklist and the Teacher Report Form (Achenbach, 1991) were used to assess behavior problems; and school records yielded information about attendance and disciplinary referrals. All of the participants in this study were boys considered to be at high-risk for internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Paired-sample t-tests revealed that EA (child-dog and child-adult) significantly increased from pre- to post-test. (Child-adult EA scores apply to the child's display of EA towards both the adult dog trainer and the school professional on the HABIC team.) In addition, a significant decrease was seen in student disciplinary referrals from pre- to post-test.
|Publication Title||Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin|
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