Stress assessment of co-therapist dogs in animal assisted interventions: a review
- AAI, dogs, stress, behavior
Animal assisted intervention (AAI), in their three forms (Animal-Assisted Activities, Animal-Assisted Education and Animal-Assisted Therapy), are activities aimed not only at supporting and integrating traditional therapies, but also at developing a strong link between animal and human beings in non-therapeutic contexts.
Despite the benefits of these activities on humans, demonstrated by several studies, it is important not to underestimate the risks for the animals involved, especially dogs. These risks are represented by different types of stress, mostly acute, which, if repeated over time, could lead, in the long- time period, to a burnout syndrome in the animal.
The analysis of scientific literature’s review of recent years, regarding the various publications on the assessment of stress in the dogs involved in the AAI, has confirmed that it does not seem to be great concerns about the welfare of co-therapists if certain practices are avoided and if considered the various factors (environmental, human and program management) that can influence it.
However, for the future, it would be desirable to aim at a further exploration of the canine experience within the AAI, through the use of validated and standardized scientific instruments.