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Effects of a Dog-Assisted Social- and Emotional-Competence Training for Prisoners: A Controlled Study

By K. Hediger, R. Marti, V. Urfer, A. Schenk, V. Gutwein, C. Dörr

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BACKGROUND: Previous research has called for improving psychological interventions and developing new treatments for prisoners. Animal-assisted prison-based programmes have increasingly been used as an approach, but there is a lack of studies investigating the effectiveness of such programmes. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of a dog-assisted social- and emotional-competence training on the socioemotional competences of prisoners compared to treatment as usual. METHODS: In a controlled trial, we investigated 62 prisoners that participated in either a 6-month dog-assisted psychotherapeutic programme or the standard treatment. We assessed social and emotional competences before and after the training and at a 4-month follow-up. Data were analysed with linear models. RESULTS: The prisoners' self-assessed social and emotional competences did not differ. The psychotherapists rated the prisoners' emotional competences in the intervention group higher at the follow-up but not after the training. The psychotherapists did not rate the prisoners' social competences in the intervention group differently but did find them to have higher self-regulation at follow-up and lower aggressiveness after the training than the control group. CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that dog-assisted programmes with a therapeutic aim might be beneficial for prisoners. However, the inconsistent results indicate that more research is needed to determine the potential and limits of animal-assisted programmes in forensic settings.

Publication Title Int J Environ Res Public Health
Volume 19
Issue 17
ISBN/ISSN 1660-4601
DOI 10.3390/ijerph191710553
Author Address Division of Clinical Psychology and Animal-Assisted Interventions, Faculty of Psychology, University of Basel, Missionsstrasse 62, 4056 Basel, Switzerland.Human and Animal Health Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute Basel, Kreuzstrasse 2, 4123 Allschwil, Switzerland.Faculty of Psychology, Open University, Postbus 2960, 6401 AT Heerlen, The Netherlands.Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Human-Animal Interaction (IEMT), Kreuzstrasse 2, 4123 Allschwil, Switzerland.Pet-Agogik, Lärchenweg 12, 68804 Altlussheim, Germany.Department of Corrections Bruchsal, Schönbornstrasse 32, 76646 Bruchsal, Germany.
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted interventions
  2. Animals
  3. Dogs
  4. Emotions
  5. Humans
  6. open access
  7. Prisons
  8. Research
  9. Social Competence
  1. open access