Facility Dogs

At the OHAIRE lab, we are interested in studying the effects of a unique category of human-animal interaction between people and professional therapy dogs, called facility dogs.

Learn more about the OHAIRE lab's current research on this topic.

What are facility dogs?

Facility dogs are professional, full-time therapy dogs that have been specially trained for their roles. These dogs are different from volunteer and visiting therapy dogs in that they are employed to accompany a human professional full-time in their day-to-day work.

What do they do?

The role of facility dogs accompanying a human professional is to facilitate or enhance interactions with the professional’s patients or clients. Facility dogs have been trained to be comfortable in the specific settings where they work. Currently, facility dogs are most commonly found in hospitals, police stations, and courtrooms.

What are facility dogs' jobs in children's hospitals?

Facility dogs in pediatric hospitals have learned how to assist hospital personnel in many roles to improve the patient experience. These dogs have been taught to move comfortably around common hospital equipment, such as how to gently get on or off of a hospital bed when asked. Prior studies have found that facility dogs may offer benefits to patients’ physical and mental health [1, 2], with specific effects including reduced fear, less anxiety, and lower perceived pain [3].

Beyond the patients, can facility dogs help pediatric hospital personnel?

Individuals working in high-stress environments, such as healthcare, are at risk for job-related burnout and poor mental health [4]. In prior healthcare research, burnout has been linked to poor job performance and a lower quality of patient care [5, 6]. The effects of burnout on job-performance and patient care may be buffered by positive social support [7]. Although investigations of this buffer have focused on human social-support, there have also been studies in the field of human-animal interaction suggesting that pets and companion dogs offer support beneficial for stress [8, 9]. Based on this, is it possible that healthcare professionals could gain social support and experience work-life benefits from their facility dog colleagues? The OHAIRE lab is currently conducting a national study to determine the potential effects of facility dogs on pediatric hospital personnel mental health and job-related wellbeing.

Written by Clare L. Jensen and the OHAIRE Group

References

  1. Kline, J. A., Fisher, M. A., Pettit, K. L., Linville, C. T., & Beck, A. M. (2019). Controlled clinical trial of canine therapy versus usual care to reduce patient anxiety in the emergency department. PLOS ONE, 14(1), [e0209232].
  2. Crossman, M. K., Kazdin, A. E., Matijczak, A., Kitt, E. R., & Santos, L. R. (2018). The Influence of interactions with dogs on affect, anxiety, and arousal in children. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 00(00), 1-14.
  3. Tsai, C., Friedmann, E., & Thomas, S. A. (2010). The effect of animal-assisted therapy on stress responses in hospitalized children. Anthrozoös: A multidisciplinary journal of the interactions of people & animals, 23(3), 245-258.
  4. Wood, B. D., & Killion, J. B. (2007). Burnout among healthcare professionals. Radiology Management, 29(6), 30-34.
  5. Hall, L. H., Johnson, J., Watt, I., Tsipa, A., & O’Connor, D. B. (2016). Healthcare staff wellbeing, burnout, and patient safety: A systematic review. PLOS ONE, 11(7), [e0159015].
  6. Reader, T. W., Cuthbertson, B. H., & Decruyenaere, J. (2008). Burnout in the ICU: Potential consequences for staff and patient well-being. Intensive Care Medicine, 34(1), 4-6.
  7. Eastburg, M. C., Williamson, M., Gorsuch, R., & Ridley, C. (1994). Social support, personality, and burnout in nurses. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24(14), 1233-1250.
  8. Beck, A. M. (2014). The biology of the human-animal bond. Animal Frontiers, 4(3), 32-36.
  9. Beetz, A. M. (2017). Theories and possible processes of action in animal assisted interventions. Applied Developmental Science, 21(2), 139-149.

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