A Transdisciplinary Perspective on Dog-Handler-Client Interactions in Animal Assisted Activities for Children, Youth and Young Adults

Renata P. S. Roma1, Christine Yvette Tardif-Williams1, Shannon A. Moore1, & Sandra L. Bosacki2

1Department of Child & Youth Studies, Brock University
2Faculty of Education, Brock University

A growing body of research has linked the inclusion of dogs in Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) for children and young adults to a diverse range of positive social emotional and cognitive outcomes. However, many studies have focused exclusively on aspects directly related to dog-client interactions. There is a need to gain a better understanding of how dog-handler teams have been described, conceptualized and incorporated into the analysis in previous research. In addition, few studies have investigated the mutual adjustments inherent to dog-handler-client triadic relationships. This paper explores if and how the unique characteristics of dog-handler teams have been conceptualized and measured in previous studies. First, this paper undertakes a scoping review to map what, if any, characteristics of dogs, handlers, and dog-handler teams have been described and incorporated into the assessment of AAAs from 2004 to 2019 including: demographic characteristics, formal training and certification, handlers’ or dogs’ behavioral and physiological responses to AAAs, handlers’ roles during activities, and configuration of AAA teams. This scoping review also highlights key features of AAA teams requiring further investigation. In addition, this paper proposes the incorporation of a transdisciplinary framework to the analysis of AAAs. Such a holistic framework can inform the field of human-animal interactions by prioritizing a relational and contextual focus to the study of AAAs.
Keywords: Animal-Assisted Activity, Animal-Assisted Intervention, Dog-Handler Team, Transdisciplinary, Children, Youth, Young Adults

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