Supporting Animals and Veterans through Enrichment (SAVE): An Exploratory Study on a Brief Canine Socializing Intervention

dc.contributor.committeeChairStellato, Anastasia
dc.contributor.committeeMemberSchroeder, Katy
dc.contributor.committeeMemberBinfet, John-Tyler
dc.creatorWebberson, Emily
dc.description.abstractVeterans pursuing post-secondary education face reintegration and academic-related stress. To support student well-being, post-secondary schools have begun to offer animal-assisted interventions (AAI); however, the influence of AAI on student veteran populations remains underexplored. As shelter dogs can benefit from human interaction, a mixed-methods design was used to assess if both dogs and student veterans could benefit from participating in a brief on-campus interaction. Using a 30-minute unstructured interaction between veteran students and shelter dogs, we aimed to identify whether: the interaction influenced veteran reported mood state, the dog and the interaction activities completed influenced veteran experience, and the interaction influenced shelter dog behavior. Thirty veterans (Mage = 34, SD = 9.2; 24 males, 4 females) enrolled in a Southern U.S. mid-size public university participated along with screened shelter dogs (N = 30, Mage = 2, SD = 0.9; 17 males, 13 females). Veterans were instructed to complete any activities of their choosing (i.e., petting, playing, talking, providing treats, brushing) with a shelter dog. To assess changes in veteran mood, a pictorial self-report scale (assessing arousal (activated, deactivated), and valence (pleasant, unpleasant)) was completed pre- and post-interaction. Dog behavior was measured in shelter before the interaction and during the beginning, middle, and end of the interaction. Results suggest a non-significant trend of veterans leaving the interaction in a pleasant deactivated mood (e.g., calm). The dog’s behavior was reported to be the most memorable and to positively impact the veterans’ interaction. Also, dogs entered the interaction with more behavioral displays of fear (e.g., reduced posture), general activity (e.g., jumping), and soliciting contact behaviors (e.g., soliciting play), with all behavioral activity reducing midway through the interaction. Results reveal that dogs may enter the interaction at increased fear and activity levels due to an unfamiliar human; however, their reduction in behavior suggests relaxation over the interaction. Observed decreases in dog fear behavior, veteran reported pleasant mood states and activity enjoyment suggests program benefits for shelter dogs and student veterans.
dc.rights.availabilityAccess is not restricted.
dc.subjectAnimal-Assisted Interventions
dc.titleSupporting Animals and Veterans through Enrichment (SAVE): An Exploratory Study on a Brief Canine Socializing Intervention
dc.typeThesis and Food Science Science Tech University of Science


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