Animal Assisted Intervention is a broad term, that refers to the introduction of animals to any way of supporting humans in all possible areas, like health or education. The most common types of AAI are:
- Animal Assisted Activities
This type of AAI might be delivered by professionals, para-professionals or volunteers after proper training. There are no goals set up in the process, the main purpose for Animal Assisted Activities is general wellbeing, motivation and recreation for people. It usually involves visits in nursing homes, hospitals and care centres. It also can be carried out both individually or in small groups.
- Animal Assisted Therapy
Must be carried out by a professional in the field (occupational therapist, play therapist, physiotherapist, psychology professional, etc.). He or she must be goal-oriented, and the progress must be documented and evaluated. Dogs that are involved must be trained at a higher level for Animal Assisted Activities. Usually, one-to-one sessions are held in AAT.
- Animal Assisted Education
These sessions should be carried out by teachers or other professionals that have a professional educational background. It can be carried out individually, in a small group or in a classroom setting for larger group (extra attention to animal welfare must be observed). Dogs can assist in any subject taught, as they work as an effective instrument in motivating children to complete certain tasks. Some of the most popular tasks are reading to a dog and puppy rooms where students can relax before exams.
Why Animal Assisted Intervention is so popular?
There is no doubt that humans develop a strong bond with animals from early childhood. Even If a child doesn’t own a real animal, there are always soft toys ready to substitute a real animal. Almost all stories for children have animals in them. We are growing up with either real or imagined animals. They give us unconditional love, comfort and soothe us.
Scientists have been trying to discover the reason why our bond with animals is so strong, and why Animal Assisted Intervention really works.
It is proven so far, that:
- Oxytocin - one of the most powerful, healthy, social hormones we have. It is released just after a few minutes of positive interaction with a dog;
- The dog’s body temperature is higher than a human’s (average 38 degrees Celsius), so cuddling with a warm, furry friend has a soothing effect;
- β – endorphin, and dopamine increases significantly after 5 to 24 min of physical contact with an animal;
- cortisol (stress hormone) decreases significantly during positive interaction with an animal.