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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(8), 945; doi:10.3390/ijerph14080945

“You Think You’re Helping Them, But They’re Helping You Too”: Experiences of Scottish Male Young Offenders Participating in a Dog Training Program

1
Psychology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK
2
Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 June 2017 / Revised: 2 August 2017 / Accepted: 15 August 2017 / Published: 22 August 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Assisted Interventions and Activites for Health and Wellbeing)
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Abstract

Interaction with animals can be beneficial to humans and animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) are increasingly popular in a range of contexts. Dog training programs (DTPs) are the most popular form of AAI in custodial contexts; prisoners often have multiple needs and DTPs seem to facilitate a diverse range of positive outcomes, including improvements in well-being, behavior, and offending behavior. However, evidence on the efficacy of prison-based DTPs is still limited and these evaluations often lack detail or methodological rigor. We examined the experiences of male young offenders (N = 70) using thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews conducted following completion of a DTP. The themes that emerged indicated a broad range of inter-related experiences and positive outcomes. The most prevalent theme related to their experiences with Dogs (including feelings and attitudes), and there were perceived improvements categorized as: Positive Effects (including mood and well-being), Motivation, Charitable Purpose, Self-Efficacy, Improved Skills, Impulsivity, and Emotional Management. These themes mapped well onto outcomes previously identified in research on DTPs, and to the program’s core aims of improving behavior, educational engagement, employability, and well-being. The diversity and nature of these themes indicates that DTPs have considerable potential to engage and benefit those individuals with multiple needs, such as young offenders, and ultimately to achieve positive long-term outcomes with significant social, health, and economic impact. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal-assisted intervention; dog training program; prison; young offenders; dogs; human-animal interaction animal-assisted intervention; dog training program; prison; young offenders; dogs; human-animal interaction
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Leonardi, R.J.; Buchanan-Smith, H.M.; McIvor, G.; Vick, S.-J. “You Think You’re Helping Them, But They’re Helping You Too”: Experiences of Scottish Male Young Offenders Participating in a Dog Training Program. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 945.

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