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Canine cuddles can comfort equally across all genders

3 months, 3 weeks ago

2932  0
Posted on Nov 01, 2023, 2 p.m.

Image Caption: A first-of-its-kind study from the Okanagan School of Education has determined that canine therapy can help students feel better and more optimistic regardless of their gender. Photo credit: Freya Green.

While there are a number of studies demonstrating that dog therapy programs can improve a person's social and emotional well-being, many typically have a disproportionate number of female participants.

Recent research led by Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, an Associate Professor in UBC Okanagan's School of Education and Director of Building Academic Retention through K9s (BARK), evaluated if there are gender differences in well-being by setting up separate dog therapy sessions for those who identified as female, male and gender diverse participants.

Dr. Binfet has conducted numerous studies on the benefits of canine therapy, but to his knowledge, this is the first gender-specific study about canine therapy.

"Previous research has explored if it works and how it works, but not who it works for," says Dr. Binfet. "This was one of the first studies that examined whether canine-assisted interventions work equally well for varied genders."

For the study, students self-selected their gender cohort and were assigned to a session on a first-come first-serve basis. Prior to the sessions, they provided reports of well-being; specifically measuring their self-perceptions of campus and social connectedness, happiness, optimism, stress, homesickness and loneliness.

A total of 163 students -- 49 percent women, 33 percent men, and 17 percent non-binary and other genders -- participated in 20-minute sessions. In groups of three to four, the students engaged with a therapy dog and handler, and following the session they filled out a survey. The results showed, as expected, that there was a significant increase in well-being and a decrease in homesickness, stress and loneliness. The results also demonstrated that canines have a comparable positive wellness effect across diverse gender identities.

"In light of previous studies that note participants were predominantly women, our sampling of men, genderfluid and two-spirit participants furthers our understanding that the efficacy of these interventions does not appear to be gender dependent," says Dr. Binfet. "The vast majority of responses showed that the dogs helped the students feel and experience something positive regardless of their gender."

The findings could influence post-secondary mental health and wellness programs as educators continue to seek low-cost and low-barrier inclusive options for students.

The research, published in CABI Human-Animal Interactions, was supported by the BARK program.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.

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References/Sources/Materials provided by:

This article was written by Patty Wellborn at The University of British Columbia-Okanagan

Image Caption: A first-of-its-kind study from the Okanagan School of Education has determined that canine therapy can help students feel better and more optimistic regardless of their gender. Photo credit: Freya Green.

patty.wellborn@ubc.ca

https://news.ok.ubc.ca/2023/10/24/canine-cuddles-can-comfort-equally-across-all-genders/

https://ok.ubc.ca/

http://dx.doi.org/10.1079/hai.2023.0037

https://www.cabidigitallibrary.org/journal/hai

https://bark.ok.ubc.ca/

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