More commonly research has focused on using AAT and AAA to
help counsel young children or individuals in educational settings struggling with disabilities or emotional
turbulence. Boris Levinson was among the first child psychologists to introduce the concept of AAT, by
publishing a document titled “Mental Hygiene, The dog as a co-therapist.”
Children are naturally drawn to animals, and often
communicate with animals far more positively than they might the average adult in a therapy
AAT and animal assisted activities are becoming increasingly
commonplace in educational facilities throughout the U.S. Some studies show dogs can help children overcome
traumas including shootings or deaths.
A study conducted on Animal-Assisted Therapy and severely
disabled children suggested that measuring true “cognitive” gain in patients with mental handicaps is difficult,
but there is promising research suggesting animal assisted therapy programs can be particularly useful producing
immediate results and positive behaviours among children and others. The same can be said of other programs, and
given this, pet therapy is worthy of formal consideration.
Many times, parents hear of the benefits of AAT and decide
they should buy a pet for their family. If a parent decides to buy a dog or pet as a member of the family to
introduce a new playmate and produce greater self-esteem and confidence in their child, it is important they do
their homework first.
Parents have to assess (1) whether children are old enough to
care for an animal, or whether doing so would result in greater stress for the child, dog and parent alike and
(2) what type of animal is most appropriate for their household. A highly energetic dog for example may prove
beneficial in a household with multiple children, or may induce more chaos if the animal is high-strung and
easily becomes aggressive in stressful situations.
Remember children are likely to tug on an animal’s hair, move
or react suddenly, or engage in roughhousing that can startle a highly-reactive pet. As a pet owner, you owe it
to your family and pet to perform due diligence. Research the animal you want to buy, its breed and its
temperament. You will save yourself a lot of time and hassle if you follow this simple and easy step.
More animals end up in a pound because a family bought a pet
hoping the pet would become a mutual family friend, only to find the dog or other animal they adopted was too
“high strung” or “high maintenance” to coexist within the confines of their family environment.