Nursing Home Staffs' Empathy for a Missing Therapy Dog, their Attitudes to Animal-Assisted Therapy Programs and Suitable Dog Breeds

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The study was conducted at the Returned Soldiers League (RSL) War Veterans Home at Pinjarra Hills (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia) where a spayed female Whippet, Heidi, was placed as a therapy dog. Of the 80 staff members, 47 (58.75%) returned completed questionnaires on attitudes towards Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) programs and the disappearance of Heidi two days after placement. The Pet Attitude Scale (Templer et al. 1981) was used in conjunction with the staff attitude questionnaire.

Respondents with high Pet Attitude scores were more upset (2(2)=8.41, p<0.05) and liked dogs more (2(2)=7.03, p<0.05) than staff with medium or low scores. The staff with high scores were also more pleased when Heidi returned (2(1)=15.97, p<0.05). Respondents who wanted a program were those who liked dogs the most (2(1)=7.02, p<0.05) and did not think having an AAT program would increase their workload (2(1)=3.77, p<0.05). Staff who thought a dog should live at the nursing home were pleased (2(1)=5.2, p<0.05) when Heidi returned.

Gentle/placid dogs were more frequently chosen (78.7%) than active dogs as suitable for AAT and the preferred size was medium (57.5%) with a short coat (78.7%).


Document Type: Short Communication


Publication date: June 1, 1998

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