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Dogs on Campus

Holistic Assessment of Therapy Dogs and Handlers for Research and Community Initiatives

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 University of British ColumbiaKelowna, British ColumbiaCanada
  • | 2 University of British ColumbiaKelowna, British ColumbiaCanada
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Abstract

Once used mostly in clinical settings such as hospitals and geriatric care centers, canine animal-assisted therapy programs have become increasingly commonplace on university campuses to reduce stress and support students’ social and emotional well-being. Researchers responding to the call for increased empirical rigor in studies assessing the effects of animal-assisted therapy and practitioners seeking to initiate well-being programs on campus can face challenges in accessing therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers. This article outlines how therapy canines and their handlers may be holistically assessed for participation in university-based initiatives and presents a model that includes the prescreening of volunteer handlers, training sessions for handlers, the use of multiple raters to assess canine temperament and behavior, the use of mock sessions, and the use of ongoing formative evaluation and feedback for handlers once they are accepted into the program.

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