Animal-assisted interventions (AAI) are an emerging therapeutic process utilising the close relationships between humans and companion animals, and the many psychological and physical health benefits these can provide. This paper investigates the effect of a ten-minute interaction with a Pets as Therapy dog on self-reported measures
of perceived stress, psychological well-being and self-efficacy with undergraduate students at the University of Lincoln, compared with watching dog-related media and reading emotionally neutral stimuli. Analysis revealed strong effects of the intervention on scores of well-being and self-efficacy, but no significant effects on levels of perceived stress. Viewing of a ten-minute extract of BBC’s ‘Secret Life of Dogs’ yielded moderate results in the same measures with a similar lack of stress effects, demonstrating a minor beneficial role of passive and artificial AAIs on the individual. Improvement amongst self-efficacy and well-being measures in student samples can be highly associated to factors of greater academic achievement and psychological health, suggesting important implications of AAI programmes if implemented by university institutions on campus. Findings also challenge the use of AAIs as an established source of stress relief and emphasise the complexities of mechanisms involved in human-animal interactions and relationships.
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