Tag Archives: human-animal bond

Older Adults and Animal Programming

The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative and the National Council on Aging have published a new guide to assist senior centers in implementing animal programmes.

There’s a large and growing body of evidence on the value of animals (especially dogs and other companion animals) in combating obesity, loneliness, mental health issues and inspiring memory recall in dementia patients.  In the western world, we also have a growing population of senior citizens and so there’s a strong rationale for rolling out animal programs in senior centers.

The guide cites real-life policy examples and literature in an easy-to-read guide.

Key recommendations on getting started include:

• Establish clear and measurable goals for your senior center
• Develop policies, protocols, and training programs for staff, volunteers, and animals
• Gain acceptance of your program and ensure participant awareness of policies and programming, including the benefits
• Assess risk and develop appropriate procedures to mitigate risk
• Measure successes and failures of your programs through record keeping, questionnaires, and other research

Back in the late 1990s, my Labrador Ebony and I were a therapy team at a local rest home as part of Canine Friends.  I saw first hand the faces of our human friends who looked forward to our visits, with conversations about pets they had in their lives.  The power of a dog sitting at their feet was strong!

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Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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The Pet Effect

The Pet Effect is an educational campaign to raise awareness of the health benefits of pets and to encourage veterinary and other pet professionals to understand their role in promoting the benefits of the human-animal bond.

Needless to say, this is an issue very near and dear to my heart.

I am a passionate supporter of “Adopt, Don’t Shop” and, because of my work with dogs and owners as a canine massage therapist, I have the honored position of working with dogs and their owners as a team.  We often focus on quality of life for the dog.  In many cases, the quality of the dog’s life is a direct consequence of what is happening in their human family and vice-versa.

I really like the Pet Effect’s latest video – Adopt a Human – because it puts a different perspective on adoption.


Did your dog rescue you?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The importance of “Dog Speak”

Scientists at the University of York have shown that using ‘dog-speak’ to communicate with dogs is important in relationship-building between pet and owner, similar to the way that ‘baby-talk’ is to bonding between a baby and an adult.

dogspeak

Dogs paid more attention to people that used ‘dog-speak’ (photo courtesy of University of York)

Speech interaction experiments between adult dogs and humans showed that this particular type of speech improves dog attention and may help humans to socially bond with their pets.

Previous studies on communicating with dogs had suggested that talking in a high-pitch voice with exaggerated emotion, just as adults do with babies, improved engagement with puppies but made little difference with adult dogs.

Researchers at York tested this theory with new experiments designed to understand more about why humans talk to dogs like this and if it is useful to the dogs in some way or whether humans do this simply because they like to treat dogs in the same way as babies.

Speech register

Dr Katie Slocombe from the University of York’s Department of Psychology, said: “A special speech register, known as infant-directed speech, is thought to aid language acquisition and improve the way a human baby bonds with an adult.  This form of speech is known to share some similarities with the way in which humans talk to their pet dogs, known as dog-directed speech.

“This high-pitched rhythmic speech is common in human interactions with dogs in western cultures, but there isn’t a great deal known about whether it benefits a dog in the same way that it does a baby.

“We wanted to look at this question and see whether social bonding between animals and humans was influenced by the type and content of the communication.”

Unlike previous experiments, the research team positioned real humans in the same room as the dog, rather than broadcasting speech over a loud speaker without a human present.  This made the set-up more naturalistic for the dogs and helped the team test whether dogs not only paid more attention to ‘dog speak’, but were motivated to spend more time with the person who had spoken to them in that way.

Dog-related content

Researchers did a series of speech tests with adult dogs, where they were given the chance to listen to one person using dog-directed speech containing phrases such as ‘you’re a good dog’, and ‘shall we go for a walk?’, and then another person using adult-directed speech with no dog-related content, such as ‘I went to the cinema last night.’.

Attention during the speech was measured, and following the speech, the dogs were allowed to choose which speaker they wanted to physically interact with.

The speakers then mixed dog-directed speech with non-dog-related words and adult-directed speech with dog-related words, to allow the researchers to understand whether it was the high-pitched emotional tone of the speech that dogs were attracted to or the words themselves.

Preferences

Alex Benjamin, PhD student from the University’s Department of Psychology, said: “We found that adult dogs were more likely to want to interact and spend time with the speaker that used dog-directed speech with dog-related content, than they did those that used adult-directed speech with no dog-related content.

“When we mixed-up the two types of speech and content, the dogs showed no preference for one speaker over the other.  This suggests that adult dogs need to hear dog-relevant words spoken in a high-pitched emotional voice in order to find it relevant.

“We hope this research will be useful for pet owners interacting with their dogs, and also for veterinary professionals and rescue workers.”

The research paper, ‘’Who’s a good boy?!’ Dogs prefer naturalistic dog-directed speech, is published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Source:   University of York media release

Quantifying the Effects of Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD

veteran with dog

 

Researchers from the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for the Human Animal Bond will analyze the influence service dogs have on the lives of military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a unique clinical trial.

According to the United States Veterans Administration, 22 veterans commit suicide each day, and at least 40 percent have been diagnosed with PTSD. The rate could be even higher, as many cases of PTSD go undiagnosed.

Previous studies have suggested that individuals who bond with their pet dogs exhibit elevated levels of oxytocin – sometimes referred to as the “cuddle hormone” because it sparks emotional responses that contribute to relaxation and trust. Additionally, the National Center for PTSD claims dogs can encourage veterans to communicate more through commands and training, and prompt them to spend more time outdoors and meet new people.

These benefits support anecdotal reports that show an increase in the prevalence of service dogs for individuals with PTSD, but scientific evidence examining this growing trend and its effects on PTSD patients is still lacking.

“Many veterans are increasingly seeking complementary interventions for PTSD, including service dogs,” stated Maggie O’Haire, lead researcher and assistant professor of human-animal interaction at Purdue. “Yet, even with the well-meaning intentions of service dog organizations that are working to meet the demand, our systematic review of scientific literature confirms a lack of published, empirical research on the effects that service dogs have on veterans and their spouses.”

To help carry out the study, the research team has partnered with K9s for Warriors – one of the nation’s leading providers of service dogs to military vets suffering from a variety of conditions including PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, or sexual trauma as a result of service post-9/11.

The team hopes to determine what sort of PTSD symptom changes veterans may experience as a result of having a service dog, as well as any effects on social functioning and physiological biomarkers.

According to a university release, standardized survey instruments and objective measures of physiology will be used to track stress and functioning. The researchers will also use a novel ecological momentary assessment protocol to capture the role and function of the dogs in everyday life.

The results will be the first evidence-based data to be published that quantitatively identifies the roles and effects of service dogs for military veterans with PTSD.

The study is unique because it applies research methodology and evidence-based science to an area that has typically relied on emotion, according to O’Haire.

“Without scientifically sound studies that establish proof-of-concept for the therapeutic efficacy of PTSD service dogs, this animal-assisted intervention strategy will continue to be minimized as an unsupported and potentially unsound practice, despite anecdotal reports that the dogs may have a significant impact,” added O’Haire.

Source:  www.laboratoryequipment.com

Sharing your bed with your pet (or other humans)

About half of all pet owners share their beds or bedrooms with their pets at night. Although this has been the case through the ages, remarkably few studies have been done about the benefits and drawbacks of this practice.

In an article in Springer’s journal Human Nature, the authors argue that society regards both human-animal and adult-child co-sleeping with the same unnecessary apprehension. These concerns should, however, be set aside because both practices have their benefits, says lead author Bradley Smith of Central Queensland University in Australia.

sleeping together

Sleeping arrangements between humans have evolved over time and across cultures. In medieval Europe, for instance, sleep was a public and communal affair. It was not uncommon to receive visitors in the bedroom, or for many people to sleep in the same bed. Sleeping with others was a way to increase personal security, conserve resources, and generate warmth. Sleeping with children from birth is still the norm in many cultures, for instance in Egypt and among indigenous cultures in unindustrialized populations. Intergenerational co-sleeping is generally more prevalent in collectivist Asian countries than in contemporary, individualistic or industrialized Western cultures.

In the West, sleep is nowadays regarded as an individual and private experience that helps the body and mind to optimally rest and recuperate. The normative shift from sleep as a public and social affair to a private one arose through a complex “civilizing” process starting in the Victorian era. Social norms and rules began to dictate that each person should sleep in a single bed, in a private place away from public view, and wear appropriate sleeping attire. This gradually introduced the concept of the private bedroom and private sleep to many social classes.

In their paper, Smith and his co-authors use dogs as an example of human-animal co-sleeping. They compare human-canine sleeping with adult-child co-sleeping and argue that both forms of co-sleeping share common factors for establishment and maintenance, and have similar advantages and disadvantages.

According to the Australian researchers, current apprehension about human-animal co-sleeping and bed sharing between parents and their children focuses too much on possible negative aspects or consequences, such as poor health, impaired functioning, the development of problematic behavior, and even sexual dysfunction.

“Apart from its clear reproductive function for the survival of the species, as well as physiological support for the quality and quantity of sleep that are essential to individual health and well-being, co-sleeping fulfils basic psychological needs and reinforces and maintains social relations,” highlights Smith. “Throughout history, humans have shared their sleeping spaces with other humans and other animals.”

“We propose that human-animal and adult-child co-sleeping should be approached as legitimate and socially relevant forms of co-sleeping,” says Smith, who believes that more research should be done on human-animal co-sleeping practices. “Moreover, a comprehensive understanding of human-animal co-sleeping has significant implications for human sleep, human-animal relations, and animal welfare.”

Reference: Smith, Bradley P. et al. (2017). A Multispecies Approach to Co-Sleeping: Integrating Human-Animal Co-Sleeping Practices into Our Understanding of Human Sleep, Human Nature, DOI: 10.1007/s12110-017-9290-2

Source:  Springer publishing media statement

Who Rescued Who?

I hear about it a lot from my clients and I’ve experienced it myself.

Your dog came into your life at a time when you really needed them.  Unconditional love & companionship.

So my thought for the day is simple:

Who Rescued Who

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Mutual Rescue™

Mutual Rescue™ is a trademarked initiative of the Humane Society Silicon Valley.  Aimed at changing the way people think of animal welfare and adoption, each year the Society asks for submissions from people to share their story about a special connection they have made with an animal.

These stories of inspiration and transformation have come about because a person walked into an animal shelter and adopted a pet.

Four new videos will be released in early 2017 after over 400 stories were submitted for consideration.

Below is the first Mutual Rescue™ video released last year – the story of Eric & Peety.  I particularly love the way the drawings have been introduced to the film.

Please also note that Eric’s naturopathic doctor recommended a dog as a key part of his treatment for obesity…

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand