This study examined the effects of the presence of a dog in the classroom on field independence, social competence, empathy with animals and social-emotional atmosphere. The participants were 46 first-graders (43 of them immigrants) of two school classes (control and experimental). In the experimental group, a dog was present in the classroom for three months. Multivariate analyses revealed significant enhancement of field independence and empathy with animals in the experimental group in comparison to the control group (no dog). Thus, the presence of the dog fostered the development of autonomous functioning and a better segregation of self/non-self, which is the foundation of sensitivity towards the needs and moods of other people. Moreover, according to the views of the teachers, the children in the experimental group exhibited higher social integration, and there were fewer aggressive children, compared with the children in the control group. In sum, the results indicate that a dog can be an important factor in the social and cognitive development of children.
|Author Address||Institute of Psychology, University of Vienna, Liebigg. 5, 1010 Vienna, Austria.firstname.lastname@example.org|