How Animal-Assisted Therapy Is Understood and Perceived by Health Care Providers and the General Public in Canada
Date of Award
Dogs, Innovation, Intervention, Psychology, Therapy dogs, Canada
The incorporation of dogs to assist humans with various activities has been documented for centuries. When a dog is included in treatment to meet an individual’s therapeutic goal it is known as Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). Little is known about how AAT is understood and perceived among healthcare professional and public populations in Canada. Although AAT has increased in popularly, limited research exists regarding its efficacy. Further, variation exists in the understanding and perceptions of AAT among the general pubic and healthcare professionals, possibly due to a lack of awareness of existing operational definitions and distinctions between classifications of “assistance animals.” According to the diffusion of innovation theory an innovation, defined as a new idea or practice, must be properly communicated to all appropriate channels before it may be adopted into practice. Thus, misunderstandings about AAT pose a barrier for future research and adoption of an intervention. This may further inhibit the success of AAT as an intervention, as both administrator and recipient’s attitudes and knowledge of a treatment may impact the treatment’s success. In the present study, health care professionals and the general public in Canada were surveyed regarding their knowledge of AAT, their attitude toward AAT, and their interest in learning more about AAT. Further, attitude toward dogs, openness to experience, agreeableness, and subjective distress were investigated for their influence on attitude toward AAT. Results suggest that both professional and public populations have limited knowledge of AAT and are interested in learning more about the intervention, yet are hesitant to recommend, administer, or receive the intervention without further information. Although attitude toward dogs appears to be positively associated with attitude toward AAT, the impact of openness to experience, agreeableness, and subjective distress is limited. Limitations and future directions are discussed.
Gardiner, Healey M., "How Animal-Assisted Therapy Is Understood and Perceived by Health Care Providers and the General Public in Canada" (2022). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 8700.