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Stress research in therapy dogs reveals animals' needs
Date:4/29/2014

f the dogs on video film.

Freedom relaxes

The results provide important data, says Glenk: "Therapy dogs are not subjected to stress during this type of therapy work." In a previous study Glenk had shown that therapy dogs that operate without a leash have lower cortisol levels. Accordingly, leashed dogs involved in animal-assisted therapy with psychiatric patients are less relaxed than those who can move freely while in action.

"Thus, it depends on whether the dogs can move freely, i.e. whether they are not on a leash and are permitted to leave the room at any time. These conditions were present during the group therapy. The dogs could also drink at any time and could move freely in the room," says Glenk.

Symptoms of stressed dogs

When therapy dogs feel uncertain or overwhelmed, they may develop symptoms like hair loss, scaling, biting the leash, shaking the body, yawning, licking their lips, panting, or diarrhea. More subtle abnormalities include refusal to eat, avoidance of eye contact with humans, or reduced attention and concentration abilities. Dog owners should take acute stress signals during therapy seriously and should remove their dogs from the respective situation.

Glenk recommends regular "supervision" for therapy dogs. People in psychosocial professions are accustomed to supervision as a mental hygiene measure during which difficult experiences can be processed. With supervision of animals, veterinary medicine specialists skilled in behavior research would be able to detect individual abnormalities early in therapy dogs.


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Contact: Dr. Lisa Glenk
lisa.glenk@vetmeduni.ac.at
43-125-077-2665
University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna
Source:Eurekalert  

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