Working like a Dog: Exploring the Role of a Therapy Dog in Clinical Exercise Physiology Practice

Cameron, Melainie ORCID: and Hewitt, Emily and Hollitt, Elizabeth and Wood, Jacqueline and Brown, Samantha (2022) Working like a Dog: Exploring the Role of a Therapy Dog in Clinical Exercise Physiology Practice. Animals, 12 (10):1237. pp. 1-12.

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Therapy animals in clinical settings are purported to reduce patients’ anxiety, decrease agitated behaviour, serve as social mediators, enhance the social atmosphere, and increase patients’ openness towards practitioners. A therapy dog worked alongside her exercise physiologist handler for approximately 1 day/week in a university clinic. The canine and handler functioned as a team, while the handler simultaneously undertook supervision of students. The clinic was open 24 h/week, and no other therapeutic animal was present for any part of the week. We explored, via surveys and interviews, human responses to the dog. The survey comprised 15 statement items regarding the canine’s role, behaviour, and acceptability in the clinic, ranked from strongly disagree (−2) to strongly agree (2), followed by an open item inviting participants to follow up interviews. Eleven (11) clinical clients and seven (7) students completed the survey. One client had not encountered the canine; these data were excluded. Four (4) participants from the client sample provided subsequent telephone interviews. All participants identified the canine as well-behaved; no participants considered that she detracted from their exercise sessions. Most participants were equivocal to statements regarding social lubrication and openness to practitioners; only three clients and two students identified that they felt more willing to share health information; three students identified that they felt they could confide more in the canine than in the practitioner. Interviewees’ reports were similarly favourable, reinforcing the information obtained from the surveys. Interview transcripts were subject to thematic analysis, which focussed around four key themes: (1) the canine’s good behaviour, (2) clients giving permission, and the canine as both (3) a pleasant distraction from the effort of exercise, and (4) nice to have. A therapy dog may enhance some aspects of exercise physiology service delivery.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current – Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Health and Medical Sciences (1 Jan 2022 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Resilient Regions - Centre for Health Research (1 Apr 2020 -)
Date Deposited: 17 May 2022 22:46
Last Modified: 17 May 2022 22:46
Uncontrolled Keywords: canine; animal-assisted therapy
Fields of Research (2020): 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4201 Allied health and rehabilitation science > 420199 Allied health and rehabilitation science not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 20 HEALTH > 2003 Provision of health and support services > 200301 Allied health therapies (excl. mental health services)
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