The influence of dogs’ presence on children’s performance on cognitive tests: Implications for clinical practice.

Abigail Alfrey

Salomons Institute for Applied Psychology (Canterbury Christ Church University)

Evidence suggests that cognitive assessments can evoke feelings of stress for some children, potentially inhibiting cognitive performance and undermining the validity of results. Dogs have been found to be an unobtrusive form of social support for children in other settings, potentially offering a solution to this problem. The aim of this paper was to critically review the literature to explore what effect, if any, dogs may have on children’s performance on cognitive tests, and consider implications for clinical practice. To do so, five databases were systematically searched and returns were screened for eligibility. Studies were collectively described and then appraised using a common appraisal framework. Nine studies exploring the relationship between dogs and cognitive functioning in children (≤18 years) were identified in the literature search. All used an experimental methodology and were of good to fair quality. Together, results indicated that the presence of a dog could reduce stress and enhance cognitive performance across various domains, lending experimental evidence to support the idea that dogs may support children undergoing cognitive assessments. Further trials are now required to explore the generalizability of these associations to clinical settings and implications for test validity. Further implications for policy and practice are discussed.

Keywords: Dogs, children, cognitive assessment, cognitive performance, clinical psychology

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Keywords: children, clinical psychology, cognitive assessment, cognitive performance, dogs
Posted in Pre-Publication Articles