As confirmed dog lovers, we at Dog School Ltd find it distressing when there are so many negative dog stories in the news. Luckily recent developments in Washington may help buck that trend.
Lindsay Ellsworth is a doctoral candidate in animal sciences at Washington State University. As part of her research, she regularly takes four dogs from the Spokane Humane Society to Excelsoir Youth Center. The Center houses some of the most troubled teenage boys in the state; many are being treated for drug and alcohol problems. Yet her study is making one fascinating fact clear- rather than conventional methods of relaxation, such as playing sports or watching TV, the boys are responding to time brushing, feeding and playing with the dogs.
Lindsay told Science Daily, “I was surprised, during the trial period, how calm the boys were around the dogs and at how outbursts and hyperactivity diminished… It was something you could observe like night and day.”
Before taking part in the experiment, the boys have to describe their moods on a scale of one to five. Their outlook undergoes a marked improvement after interacting with the dogs for an hour. A frequently heard comment is it helps take their mind off things, or they enjoy showing the dogs affection.
Although the first study of its kind, there are already thoughts about making this a more permanent fixture, and implementing it in other youth centers. Although Lindsay hasn’t been able to chart the effect it has on the dogs- many have been adopted since the trial began- it’s obvious that they’re also benefiting from socialising with the boys.
Lindsay first became interested in dog-human interaction through her work with the University of Washington Canine Conservation Programme. When you consider that more than 5 million animals are put into shelters each year in the US, this only serves to underline how important her research is. We at Dog School wish her every success.