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Vet. Sci. 2017, 4(4), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/vetsci4040062

Development of a Dog-Assisted Activity Program in an Elementary Classroom

1
Mind Association, 00161 Rome, Italy
2
K-9 Italy srl, 00138 Rome, Italy
3
Center for Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, 00161 Rome, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Emanuela Valle
Received: 13 October 2017 / Revised: 23 November 2017 / Accepted: 23 November 2017 / Published: 27 November 2017
Full-Text   |   PDF [207 KB, uploaded 27 November 2017]

Abstract

Here we describe a pilot Dog-Assisted Activity program that was designed to improve wellbeing and social integration in a multi-cultural elementary classroom in which some episodes of bullying had been reported. We developed a 5-encounters protocol with the aim of introducing pet dogs into the class to stimulate understanding of different types of communication and behavior, ultimately facilitating positive relationships among peers. A preliminary evaluation was carried out in order to assess the effect of the program on teachers’ perception of children’s difficulties (e.g., peer relationship problems) and strengths (prosocial behaviors) by means of a brief behavioral screening tool, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ—Teacher version). Overall results indicate that, by means of the recognition of the dogs’ behavior and non-verbal communication, children were able to express their emotions and to show behaviors that had not been recognized by the teachers prior to the intervention. In particular, the SDQ Total Difficulties scores suggest that the teacher had increased awareness of the students’ difficulties as a result of the dog-assisted program. Overall, the presence of animals in the educational environment may provide enjoyment and hands-on educational experiences, enhanced psychological wellbeing, and increased empathy and socio-emotional development. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal-assisted intervention; children; classroom pets animal-assisted intervention; children; classroom pets
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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Correale, C.; Crescimbene, L.; Borgi, M.; Cirulli, F. Development of a Dog-Assisted Activity Program in an Elementary Classroom. Vet. Sci. 2017, 4, 62.

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