Animal-assisted Interventions (AAI) proliferated rapidly since clinicians and researchers first noted the positive effects animals have on people struggling with physical and mental health concerns. The intersection of AAI with the field of animal welfare evolved from considering animals' basic needs, such as freedom from pain, to recognition that animals experience nuanced emotions. Current conceptualizations of the various roles of companion animals as an adjunct to treatments for humans emphasize not only the animals' physical comfort and autonomy, but also their mental well-being and enjoyment of AAI activities. However, numerous challenges to effective monitoring of animals involved in AAI exist. This article focuses specifically on dogs, highlighting factors that may lead handlers and therapists to miss or ignore canine stress signals during human-animal interactions and offers strategies to recognize and ameliorate dogs' distress more consistently. The primary goals of this discussion are to summarize the current thinking on canine well-being and to highlight practical applications of animal welfare principles in real-world AAI settings. The paper highlights contextual factors (e.g., physical setting, patient demand), human influences (e.g., desire to help), and intervention characteristics (e.g., presence or absence of a dog-specific advocate) that may promote or inhibit humans' ability to advocate for therapy dogs during AAI activities. Deidentified examples of each of these factors are discussed, and recommendations are provided to mitigate factors that interfere with timely recognition and amelioration of canine distress.
|Publication Title||Vet Sci|
|Author Address||Center for Human-Animal Interaction, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Adolescent Medicine, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298, USA.Center for Human-Animal Interaction, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298, USA.|
|Cite this work||
Researchers should cite this work as follows: