With the proliferation of canine-assisted interventions and the emphasis placed on the impact of these sessions in bolstering the well-being of visitors to sessions, especially university students, it can be easy to overlook just how participating in one of these sessions is experienced by participants. Capturing participants’ experiences is important as this holds the potential to inform program design and delivery and elucidate mechanisms within the intervention that were found to be especially efficacious. Forging new empirical terrain, this study explored the insights and perceptions of 469 undergraduate students who participated in a virtual canine-assisted stress-reduction intervention at a mid-size western Canadian university. Participants were randomly assigned to synchronous or asynchronous and dog or no-dog conditions and were asked to share their views of their experience by rating statements and responding to open-ended prompts. Thematic content analysis of findings revealed that a virtual canine-assisted intervention was well received by participants. Participants in the synchronous condition with a dog reported more favorable well-being benefits, as compared with participants in the asynchronous condition with a dog and with participants in both the synchronous and asynchronous conditions without a dog. Implications of these findings hold relevance for supporting geographically remote students and students for whom attending virtual sessions is the only option given barriers preventing them from in-person attendance. Correspondingly, considerations of the role of the handler and of animal welfare are presented.
|People and Animals: The International Journal of Research and Practice
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