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The effects of having a dog in a head start classroom: Is Animal Assisted Activity (AAA) useful?

26 July 2004


Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) are human-animal interactions that provide various physical, mental, emotional and social benefits to humans, with the parameters for AA T being more stringent than for AAA. Both types of interactions are being utilized at an increasing rate with various populations. Despite their increasing implementation, a paucity of empirical research exists on the benefits and shortcomings of AAA and AA T. This study utilized a pre-experimental single case design to examine the possible effects of a dog's presence in a local Head Start classroom on operationally defined "on task" behavior. Results were inconclusive in regard to whether the presence of a dog in the examined classroom facilitated or impaired the overall on task behavior of the participant. The circle-sitting task yielded no clear pattern of latency as a function of the presence or absence of the dog. Similarly, results from the observation of the individual's task engagement pattern did not indicate that the dog's presence had any effect on the participant's on task behavior. The number of verbal redirections made to the class did indicate increased redirection when the dog was present on some occasions. However, this was not consistently true across all data points (the difference between the two conditions ranged from 0 to 8). Future research suggestions include a longer time period for data collection, more strictly controlled conditions, and a between groups experimental design.


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