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Investigation of Physiological and Behavioral Responses in Dogs Participating in Animal-Assisted Therapy with Children Diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

By Ashley L. Melco, Larry Goldman, Aubrey H. Fine, Jose M. Peralta

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

This study evaluated the impact that participation in sessions with children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has on therapy dogs. Nine certified therapy dogs were paired for 6 sessions with groups of 3–4 children. Sessions consisted of 5 different activities. Activities 1 and 5 involved interactions solely with each dog and their owner, as a control. Activities 2–4 consisted of interactions with the dogs and the children which included social skills training, dog training, and reading in the company of dogs. One-zero interval sampling of stress-associated behaviors was conducted at 20-second intervals for a 10-minute duration during each of the 5 activities. At the end of each activity, heart rate was monitored, and a saliva sample was obtained for cortisol analysis. Dogs demonstrated only occasional behavioral responses and no significant findings related to cortisol or heart rate when the different activities were compared. The results indicate that with proper supervision and well-trained therapy staff, including suitable therapy dogs and their handlers, canine stress can be minimal in a therapy setting.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 23
Issue 1
Pages 10-28
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2018.1536979
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  3. Cortisol
  4. Dogs
  5. Stress