Stress Reduction in Law Enforcement Officers and Staff through a Canine-Assisted Intervention

John-Tyler Binfet, Ph.D.1, Zakary A. Draper2, & Freya L. L. Green1

University of British Columbia
1Faculty of Education
2Department of Psychology

Law enforcement officers and staff are known to experience elevated workplace stress, largely due to their increased exposure to traumatic incidents. This results in individuals experiencing trauma themselves and resultant compromised physical and mental health. Law enforcement officers are also known to be reluctant help-seekers and to increase participation in programs to promote employee well-being, initiatives are increasingly integrated into the day-to-day work routine of employees. An intervention showing promise with health care providers and college students but not yet used with law enforcement officers and staff has been to provide individuals access to therapy dogs to reduce stress. Seven therapy dogs along with their handlers were brought to an urban police precinct for 90-minutes each week for 8 weeks. A total of 251 visits (56% staff, 43% officers, < 1% unidentified) to the dog station were made with the average duration of visits being 11 minutes. A visual analogue scale was used to assess participants pre-to-post differences in stress and a paired Wilcoxon signed-ranked test indicated a significant effect of the intervention with mean stress decreasing from pre-to-post visit. Findings are discussed within the context of canine-assisted intervention and law enforcement well-being.

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Keywords: canine-assisted intervention, law enforcement, RCMP, stress reduction
Posted in Volume 8, No. 2