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Okanagan dog visitation's impact on seniors' social support : comparing group and individual conditions

By Lindsay Burton

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Category Theses

Introduction: Social support (SS) is an important determinant of senior health. Dogs are an underutilized modality for seniors’ SS promotion, and dog visitation programs are emerging to address this underutilization. Dogs impact SS in two ways according to the Social Support Theory, as an agent of SS (direct) or as a facilitator of SS (indirect).

Purpose: To replicate naturalistic interventions to determine whether visiting dog programs positively impact SS, whether there are differences between individual and group conditions, and whether differences are primarily due to direct or indirect effects of dog visiting programs.

Methodology: An exploratory quasi-experimental comparative intervention study design, with mixed methods, was utilized. The six-week intervention involved participants’ (n=8) exposure to a dog and its handler to measure the influence on participants’ perceived SS. Two conditions, group and individual, were compared to explore differences in visiting dog programs. Quantitative measurements of social support were taken at baseline, immediately post intervention, and at six weeks post intervention. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted throughout the intervention along with field notes. Six weeks following the intervention a focus group was held to determine longer-term effects. Quantitative data were analyzed using mixed measures ANOVA and qualitative data were analyzed using interpretive description.

Results: Mixed measures ANOVA were not significantly different between conditions, over time, or over time between conditions. The main effect in the individual condition was indirect, that is, facilitation of interaction between participant and handler. The group condition formed the primary bond with the visiting dog during the intervention (direct), however the group was able to maintain a connection because of the program six weeks post intervention (indirect). Reminiscence emerged as an important component of the visitation program.

Conclusion: The visiting dog program produced positive influence on participants. The lasting impact of the program was the impression left by the relationship built between participants and the visiting dog. Future studies should incorporate reminiscence into the research design to further investigate its influence.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2016
Pages 110
Publisher University of British Columbia
Location of Publication Vancouver, British Columbia
Department Science
Degree Interdisciplinary Studies
DOI 10.14288/1.0307146
URL http://hdl.handle.net/2429/58549
Language Catalan
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Animal roles
  4. Animals in culture
  5. Animal visitation programs
  6. Assisted living facilities
  7. Dogs
  8. Health
  9. Interventions
  10. Long-term care facilities
  11. Mammals
  12. Nursing homes
  13. Older adults
  14. Pet ownership
  15. Pets and companion animals
  16. Physical environment
  17. Service animals
  18. social support