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Canine-assisted interventions (AAE/AAA) in the classroom

Animal-assisted education (AAE) is a planned and structured intervention directed and/or delivered by educational and related service professionals with specific academic or educational goals.

 

Animal-assisted activities (AAA) provide opportunities for motivation, education, or recreation to enhance quality of life. Animal assisted activities are delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained professionals, paraprofessionals, or volunteers in association with animals that meet specific criteria.

 

Source: https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/avma-policies/animal-assisted-interventions-definitions 

Five Tips for Teachers

1. Carefully tailor the animal-assisted education/activity to your educational goal(s) and the needs of the students. Is your aim to support reading skills, assist with social-emotional skills, teach about animal welfare, promote empathy, or support students with special needs, diagnoses, or disabilities? Design a session that is appropriate to the needs you have identified and one with the potential to produce beneficial results.

 

2. Consider the welfare needs of the animals and eliminate unnecessary contact and/or stress for them. Think about what the world looks like from a dog’s point of view and how the dog is experiencing the intervention. React promptly to a dog showing signs of stress. See https://iiaapt.org/the-animals-point-of-view-in-animal-assisted-interventions/ 

 

3. Prepare participants. Give students appropriate safety and welfare training in advance of dog-assisted interventions. Explain to children the reason for ground rules such as staying calm, quiet, and showing respect and consideration for the dogs. Participants should not rush up or crowd the dogs.  Participants should not hug or kiss the dogs. See “How Not to Greet a Dog” poster by Lili Chin: https://www.doggiedrawings.net/freeposters See “Pat Pet Pause” poster from thefamilydog.com. 

 

4. Safeguard participants’ welfare by monitoring children and young people during the session. In advance of the session, obtain valid consent from participants and caregivers (for children and those lacking capacity to consent by themselves) and gather information on allergies and phobias via a brief questionnaire to participants/caregivers.  Practice high standards of personal and environmental hygiene.  Have participants wash their hands.  Clean the floor of all debris and items such as backpacks.

 

5. Educate yourself about best practices in animal-assisted interventions.  The articles, books, and websites below are excellent resources to explore.  

Resources

Brelsford, V. L., Dimolareva, M., Gee, N. R., & Meints, K. (2020). Best Practice Standards in Animal-Assisted Interventions: How the LEAD Risk Assessment Tool Can Help. Animals, 10(6), 974. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10060974 

 

Fine, A. Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy: Foundations and Guidelines for Animal Assisted Interventions, 5th ed.; Academic Press: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2019.

 

IAHAIO. White Paper 2014, Updated for 2018. 2018. Available online: https://iahaio.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/iahaio-white-paper-2018-english.pdf (accessed on 16 Jun 2022).

 

Lincoln Education Assistance with Dogs (LEAD). Available online: http://lead.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk (accessed on 16 Jun 2022).


Meints K, Brelsford VL, Dimolareva M, Maréchal L, Pennington K, et al. (2022) Can dogs reduce stress levels in school children? effects of dog-assisted interventions on salivary cortisol in children with and without special educational needs using randomized controlled trials. PLOS ONE 17(6): e0269333. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269333