Motivation and emotion/Book/2011/Animals and emotion

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Animals and emotion:
How connections with animals can improve your emotion and well-being
"A pet is an island of sanity in what appears to be an insane world. Friendship retains its traditional values and securities in one's relationship with one's pet. Whether a dog, cat, bird, fish, turtle, or what have you, one can rely upon the fact that one's pet will always remain a faithful, intimate, non-competitive friend -- regardless of the good or ill fortune life brings us." -Dr Boris Levinson

Key terms[edit | edit source]

"Ham" the chimpanzee
  • Emotions- 'Feelings that generally have both physiological and cognitive elements and that influence behaviour' (Feldman, 2005).
  • Well-being- is the state of being balanced and healthy, this allows optimum functioning and happiness (Moore, 2009).
  • Equine therapy (EAAT)- Is therapy that uses horses as a therapeutic tool to improve or restore bodily function/mastery, as well as social and cognitive function.
  • Animal-assisted therapy (AAT)- Therapy that uses a variety of animals, mainly dogs, as therapeutic tools to promote physical, emotional and cognitive functioning.
  • Motivation- The factors that direct and energize the behaviour of humans and other organisms (Feldman, 2005).
  • Predation- One organism kills another for food.
  • Parasitism- occurs between two organisms, one organism feeds off another to the detriment of the other organism.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

EAAT, in practice

This chapter will aim to discuss how the connections humans have with animals can improve their emotion and wellbeing. This chapter will focus on domestic animals and how they have become an integral part of human life. How 'man's best friend' also has the ability to boost ones emotional state, and therefore increase overall wellbeing. This chapter will focus on 'Equine Therapy'(EAAT) and 'Animal-assisted Therapy' (AAT). The purpose of this chapter is to provide a solid basis of information for those people looking to improve their life following an accident, illness, physical or mental disability, and the inevitable decent into old age. Through the use of EAAT & AAT the improvement to your day to day life, emotion, and well-being will be examined.

Humans have always coexisted with animals. 'Human-animal interactions range from predation to parasitism to partnership' (Knight & Herzog, 2009). All forms of these interactions attract supporters and critics. In terms of predation the 'Vegetarian' is the most common form of critic, although there are also cultural norms which cause angst. Some such examples include the popular debate between the west and Japan in relation to whaling. 'Japan argued that the practice is deeply ingrained in their culture and part of their heritage' (Knight & Herzog 2009). As well as the South Korea and China's policies brought in for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and the 2008 Beijing Olympic games which banned all restaurants from listing dog on their menus, so as not to upset western countries (Knight & Herzog 2009).

When you force yourself to think about animals learning and training the most common perception we all share would be thinking of chimpanzee’s (chimps) and gorillas. Mainly because of how human-like their species behave. Chimps and gorillas have been studied and observed in the wild, and countless studies have been conducted. Savage-Rumbaugh’s et al., (1993) study of the language development in Chimps is a perfect example. In their study they compared the language development of a human child and a chimp. Although the study yielded the expected result that humans have far more capabilities than chimpanzees, the study did find that chimps had the ability to comprehend as well as minor grammatical ability (Bates, 1993). (Bearing in mind that chimpanzees don’t have the ability to speak, instead sign language is used.) ‘Chimpanzee’s are our nearest phylogenetic neighbour.’ (Bates, 1993). In terms of evolutionary organisms, chimps are humans’ closest genetic neighbour.

Animals are both aiding and encouraging a wide variety of society’s demographics to a more positive lifestyle, to be healthier and more independent. Winefield, Black & Chur-Hansen (2008) state that 'a number of studies associate pets with physical and psychological benefits to their owners’ health ranging from increased exercise, improved general and cardiovascular health, less use of general practitioner services, fewer falls, and stimulation of daily activity in elderly owners.' Companion animals such as dogs and cats provide both psychological support and friendship to their owners no matter what age.

History[edit | edit source]

Historical perspective of human and animal relationships and development of research

  • 12,000 years ago: Human skeleton, holding a puppy, was found in northern Israel
  • 19th Century: Animals incorporated in treatment of the handicapped in Gheel, Belgium
  • 1790: Rabbits and chickens were used in therapy with the mentally ill in York, England
  • 1830: British charity commissioner recommended animals for the mental institutions
  • 1867: Farm animals and horses were used in treatment of epilepsy patients at Bethel in Bielefield, West Germany
  • 1942: Patients at U.S Army Air Corps Convalescent Hospital, Pawling, New York, worker with animals and considered treatment 'restful'
  • 1944: Sociologist James H.S. Bossard's publication "The Mental Hygiene of Owning a Dog" discussed beneficial relationships between pets and their owners
  • 1962: Psychologist Boris Levinson used his dog, Jingles, in treatment of an adolescent; he published in "The Dog as the Co-therapist"
  • 1970's: A visiting therapy dog, Skeezer, became permanent resident at Children's Psychiatric Hospital, Michigan and Psychiatrist Michael McCulloch prescribed pets to patients
  • 1972: Psychotherapist Boris Levinson conducted a survey and found that one third of New York psychotherapists used pets in treatment
  • 1973: Humane Society’s "Pet mobile" program brought animals to visit nursing homes in Pikes Peak region, Colorado
  • 1977: Dr. Dean Katcher and Erika Friedmann conducted early research on effects of pets on blood pressure and morality rates
  • 1980: Delta Society, a non-profit organization focused on the human-animal bond, was founded

(Morrison, 2007)

Historically, in 600 B.C the Ancient Greeks were the first recorded civilisation to have used horses as therapeutic tools. Horses were not only used for transportation but instead were also seen to have characteristics which improved the health and wellbeing of injured soldiers, as well as the terminally ill. (Favali & Milton, 2010).

The first known creation of the guide dog concept occurred in 1819 in Vienna, Austria. Herr Johann Wilhelm Klein created the program. Following this in 1916 at the end of the First World War, Dr Gerhard Stalling began training dogs to aid German Soldiers who had been blinded in battle. Guide dog schools slowly began popping up all over the world. (Guide dogs Western Australia, 2011).

EAAT in Australia- The first Australian’s to begin to practice EAAT with the disabled were a Queensland based couple, June and Peter McIntyre. They began a program in 1964 which was targeted at disabled children. The children could come and ride on one of their two ponies. There program slowly grew and now consists of 30 horses, servicing the intellectually disabled, physically disabled or people suffering with multiple disabilities. The facility is now known as the McIntyre centre (Equestrian Centre for Disabled children, 2011).

Guide dogs in Australia- The first guide dog training school in Australia was established in 1951 in Perth. The creator Dr Cook, originally from England, brought out the first guide dog called Dreena. Within a year Dr Cook, had placed his first Australian trained dog Beau with its owner Elsie Mead (Guide dogs Western Australia, 2011).

What is Animal-Assisted Therapy?[edit | edit source]

AAT is a therapy that uses animals, more commonly dogs to assist in improved levels of health. (Also known as Pets as Therapy (PAT)) AAT was orginally developed to improve and promote 'human physical, social, emotional and congnitive functioning' (Iwahashi, Waga & Ohta 2007). Through interactions with animal's humans are able to benefit from a different form of therapy. One that is relaxed and enjoyable, patients can interact, play and even talk to the animals. Research has shown that there are a number of physical gains from contact with animals (Favali & Milton 2010). Interactions with animals have been linked to serve as a moderator of stress (Wells, 2009). In a study conducted by Friedman (1983) showed the reduction in blood pressure of children reading aloud when a dog was present. (Wells, 2009). AAT works by the patient forming a bond/friendship with the animal, thus brining joy and pleasure to the variety of patients they assist. 'The dog is currently the major animal being used in AAT and can be called by the following titles, an Assistance Dog, a Service Dog, a Therapy Dog, a Hearing Dog, a Seeing Eye Dog, a Seizure Detection dog, and Handicapped Assistance dog along with the security and service areas' (ANDAAT, 2010).

What is Equine Therapy?[edit | edit source]

Equine therapy is also known as ‘Equine assisted activities and therapies’ (EAAT). The therapy is conducted by an equine trained specialist and a specialised therapist. The equine specialist is mainly there to assist with the horse and does not have anything to do directly with the therapy; on the other hand the therapist is only on hand to treat the patient. The process involves a variety of programs which include ‘skill development, task mastery, reflection on the horses’ behaviour, and reflections on the clients interaction with the horse’ (Cody, Steiker & Szymandera 2011, p. 200).

Main demographic that AAT & EAAT provide service[edit | edit source]

The most common applications are for the therapy and rehabilitation of:

Case study Jack - Jack is 11 years old; he was born with a degenerative eye condition. Jack has partial sight out of his right eye and eventually he will be completely blind. Jack always had a phobia of dogs as a child, which his parents couldn't explain. Jack's parents decided before Jack's eye sight completely declined, they would apply for a guide dog. It took Jack only 2 hours to get over his fear of dogs! He now has a best friend in Apollo, a black Labrador. His parents can't believe the change they have witnessed in their son since receiving Apollo. He is reportedly brighter, and more independent than ever before, he enjoys walking Apollo, giving him baths and throwing the ball for him.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Dissociative Disorder
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Down Syndrome
  • Elderly
  • Autism
  • Dementia
  • Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation patients
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Cardiovascular patients

Emotions & Well-being[edit | edit source]

Amygdala- responsible for emotions

Emotion and well-being in humans are acted upon by many different processes. For optimal functioning there must be a certain amount of balance in one’s life. Through the pursuit of humans naturally occurring motivation for such needs as relatedness to other people, autonomy and persistence, an individual is pursuing their Intrinsic goals. As results of these needs being met, an individual finds they are more psychologically well-balanced, and functioning on a more positive life platform (Reeve, 2009). “Pursuing intrinsic life goals is associated with greater self-actualization, greater subjective vitality, less anxiety and depression, greater self-esteem, higher-quality interpersonal relationships, fewer hours watching television, and lesser use of drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes” (Reeve, 2009).

Guide dogs for example allow their owner to pursue intrinsic goals, which perhaps previously they couldn’t. The guide dogs provide their owners with an amazing sense of independence, as well as friendship. Patients involved with EAAT programs generally find that horse riding gives them a sense of independence which ordinarily they may not have. Often patients are shy and introverted and this is often reflected in the addiction patients ‘equine therapy has proven to be a very successful intervention for treating addicts because you just can’t argue with a horse’ (Cody, P., Steiker, L., & Szymandera, L., 2011).

Autonomy is one of the most important things and animal can give back to a human. (Autonomy meaning independent and self regulating.) Through such therapies as AAT and EAAT the animals give the participants a sense of achievement, they allow decision making, the ability to fulfil wants, even if their wants are as simple as for example, walking down the street to purchase some milk. An individual with a guide-dog has the ability to carry out the task, when and how they would like to, with the lack of restraints that may occur without the assistance of their dog.

Guide dog

Emotional benefits:

  • Increased Independence
  • Companionship/ Friendship
  • Feelings of protection
  • Facilitate further human interaction
  • Increase verbal interaction

Studies & Research[edit | edit source]

AAT & Children with Developmental Disorders- Children with developmental disorders (DD) are generally characterized by the lack of ability to communicate with others therefore lacking social skills. AAT has been proven to help break down the barriers for these children. Martin & Farnum’s study conducted in 2002, involved children suffering with (DD) using dogs as transitional aids. The process was proven to allow the children to ‘first establish a bond with the dog, allowing them to then extend these bonds to humans’ (Martin & Farnum 2002). Children in this study showed more attention, appeared to be happier, and showed higher levels of energy.

EAAT & Adult suffering with disabilities- Favali & Milton (2010) conducted a questionnaire based study, which sought to uncover the basic improvements to one’s health as a result of EAAT. The physical, psychological, and motivational aspects were focused upon. The study questioned 5 adults, suffering from a variety of disabilities including, paraplegia and stroke. The study showed that not only was horse riding beneficial for emotional well-being but the physical well-being of the participants as well. Spasticity (pain and spasms) were negated while riding, improvement to overall balance, the motivation to become fitter and stronger, and most important the chance to be distracted from their current physical state. One participant stated that ‘being on a horse is the only time that my pain basically disappears and my spasm relaxes. I can’t exercise any other way, it’s the passive movement of the horse that does it (Favali & Milton 2010).

AAT & Dogs as Cancer detectors and Seizure detectors-

Cancer detectors- Williams & Pembroke (1989) reported a dog intently sniffing at a mole on her owner; later the mole was found to be malignant melanoma (Wells, 2007). Dogs have an acute sense of smell; their ability to detect cancerous odours was maintained in a study conducted by Willis et al, (2004). The objective was to prove that dogs could be trained to detect cancer odours in urine. The study proved that ‘Dogs can be trained to distinguish patients with bladder cancer on the basis of urine odour more successfully than would be expected by chance alone’ (Willis, et al. 2004) & (Bharda, 2011).

Seizure detectors- Seizure-alerting dogs are ‘reported to innately exhibit attention-getting behaviour prior to the clinical onset of a human’s seizure, thus alerting the person to the impending seizure’ (Dalziel, Uthman, McGorray & Reep, 2003). Once the seizure occurs the dog stays by the human until the seizure subsides. The study conducted by Dalziel et al. (2003) was a questionnaire based study, the results showed that the dogs were estimated to warn the on average 3 minutes before their seizure occurred, ‘ which allowed them time to take seizure-blocking medication, get to a safe place or assume a safe position’ (Dalziel et al. 2003).

AAT & the elderly- AAT allows the elderly to be protected ‘against boredom, loneliness, and helplessness in hospital and nursing home settings’ (Winefield et al. 2008). Pets give the elderly a sense of purpose, belonging, security, as well as encouragement to engage in physical activity. Therefore animals have the ability to provide friendship and importantly security to the elderly giving them psychological well-being.

Theories[edit | edit source]

Case study Louise - Louise is 25, following a car accident 2 years ago she was left a paraplegic. Louise has found it very hard adapting to her new life in a wheelchair, as previously she was a top level athlete. (Track and field) It has been a slow road to rehabilitation. Louise’s rehab therapist recommended EAAT, at her local horse club. Louise has been involved in the program now for 6 months, and looks forward to every visit to the centre. She related the feeling of being on a horse makes her feel like she is walking again, and she hasn’t been able to feel that thrill since her accident. EAAT has changed her life for the better, she is happier and suffers with less depression then she had been. Her family have noticed a vast improvement in her attitude, and overall outlook on life.

Attachment Theory- Attachment theory was originally put forward by Bowlby (1969) which investigated the close bond between mother and child. Specifically the affect on children separated from their parents. ‘Just as humans can develop close bonds of affection with other people, so too they can develop strong emotional ties with their pets’ (Wells, 2009). This goes some way into explaining how many people consider their pet/s to be part of their family, providing a sense of comfort and protection. Furthermore pet owners often treat pets like their children or babies 'playing with them, talking to them in motherese or baby-talk, continually referring to 'my baby,' and holding and cuddling them as one would a baby (Archer, 1997). These so called bonds which form between pet/s and their owners therefore improve both psychological health and psychological well-being.

Social Support Theory- Social Support theory is an integral part of any supporting society. Every person needs a support network of some kind, and this can even be an animal. The theory is broken down into three main areas, stress and coping perspective, the social constructionist perspective and lastly the relationship perspective.

Stress and coping- support reduces the effect of stressful events people experience, by cushioning the blow. Through such supporting processes as advice, friendship, and reassurance. Animals can suitably fill this role, as stress reducers, companion support, and of course friendship.

Social Constructionist- refers to ‘the assumption that people’s perceptions about the world do not reflect ultimate reality’ (Lakey & Cohen, 2000). Therefore each individual holds a different opinion of the world, therefore everyone has a different belief of what social support really means to them. Everyone experiences different forms of support systems, whether you have an extremely close family or don't, or whether you live in a retirement home or independently.

Relationships- are an important way of affirming companionship, intimacy, low conflict and attachment should lead to emotional and physical well-being.Human interaction is important for ones emotional well-being, often owning an animal allows indivduals to persue support networks, for example puppy pre-school.

Role Enhancement theory- Role enhancement theory suggests that multiple roles can enhance well-being. ‘Owning a dog may enhance well-being by providing buffers that have the potential to reduce the likelihood of strain or by decreasing the negative effects of occupying too few roles’ (Cline, 2010). Much like parenting the role can sometimes be hard, but the rewards far out way negatives. Through broadening your roles in life, enjoyment and inevitably emotional well-being can result.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The benefits of animals throughout society are endless. Having the opportunity to be a dog owner provides you with fantastic companionship, as well as a sense of protection. All of which are working towards a more positive equilibrium of well-being. Animals throughout history have proven to be useful as food sources, for transportation, for rehabilitation and courageously for protection. Dogs and horses are now showing their resourcefulness in terms of facilitating happier more emotionally stable, independent people. The numerous assistances shown to humans by both dogs and horses is truly amazing, the benefits which humans are now reaping is priceless.

I hope you found this chapter informative and rewarding, and that animals are appreciated just that much more for the often selfless acts they continually show to humans.

Quiz yourself[edit | edit source]

1 What is AAT?

Animal-assisted therapy
Animal-acquired therapy.
Animal-abandonment therapy.
Animal-admiring therapy.

2 What civilisation were the first to use horses as therapeutic tools?


3 What is EAAT?

Experimental-acquired addiction therapy
Edible-assisted activities therapy
Equine-assisted activities therapy
Equine-acquired activities therapy

4 What is the name of the robotic therapy dog?


5 In what country did the first guide dogs begin?

Hamburg, Germany.
Mykonos, Greece.
Perth, Australia.
Vienna, Austria.

See also[edit | edit source]

If you enjoyed this chapter and would like to engage in further reading, I strongly recommend:

  • Chandler, C. (2005) Animal assisted therapy in counselling. New York: Routledge.
  • Steiger, B., & Steiger, S. (2004) Horses Miracles: Inspirational true tales of remarkable horses. Massachusetts: F & W Publications.

References[edit | edit source]

Australian Network for the Development of Animal Assisted Therapies (2010). Retrieved October 31, 2011,

Archer, J. (1997) Why do people love their pets? Evolution and Human Behaviour, 18: 237-259.

Bates, E., (1993) Comprehension and production in early language development: comments on Savage-Rumbaugh et al. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 58: 222-242.

Bharda, A. (2011) Woof! Smells like cancer. Current Science, 101 (4): 480-483.

Cline, K. (2010) Psychological effects of dog ownership: role strain, role enhancement, and depression. The Journal of Social Psychology, 150 (2): 117-131.

Cody, P., Steiker, L., & Szymandera, L. (2011) Equine Therapy: substance abusers' "Healing through horses." Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 11: 198-204. doi: 10.1080/1533256x.2011.571189

Dalziel, D., Uthman, B., McGorray, S., & Reep, R. (2003) Seizure-alert dogs: a review and preliminary study. Seizure, 12: 115-120. doi: 10.1016/S1059-1311(02)00225-X

Dingman, A. (2008) Hoof prints: Equine therapy for Autistic children. Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, 21 (4): 11-13.

Equestrian Centre for Disabled Children (2011). Retrieved October 31, 2011, from

Favali, V., & Milton, M. (2010) Disabled horse-rider's experience of horse-riding: A phenomenological analysis of the benefits of contact with animals. Existential Analysis, 21 (2): 251-262.

Feldman, R. (2005) Understanding Psychology (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Guide Dogs Western Australia (2011). Retrieved October 29, 2011, from

Iwahashi, K., Waga, C., & Ohta, M. (2007) Questionnaire on animal-assisted therapy (AAT): the expectation for AAT as a day-care program for Japanese schizophrenic patients. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 11 (4): 291-293. doi: 10.1080/13651500701245973

Knight, S., & Herzog, H. (2009) All creatures great and small: new perspectives on psychology and human-animal interactions. Journal of Social Issues, 3: 451-461.

Lakey, B., & Cohen, S. (2000) Social support theory and measurement. In S. Cohen, L.G Underwood, & B.H Gottlieb (Eds.) Social support measurement and intervention (pp. 29-52) New York: Oxford University Press.

Martin, F., & Farnum, J. (2002) Animal-assisted therapy for children with pervasive developmental disorders. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 24 (6): 657-670. doi: 10.1177/019394502320555403

Moore, B. (2009)(Ed.) Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary (5th ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press. (Original published c. 1987)

Morrison, M. (2007) Health benefits of animal-assisted interventions. Complementary Health Practice Review, 12 (51): 52-61. doi: 10.1177/1533210107302397

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion (5th ed.). Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons.

Wells, D. (2009) The effects of animals on human health and well-being. Journal of Social Issues, 65(3): 523-543.

Wells, D. (2007) Domestic dogs and human health: An overview. British Journal of Health Psychology, 12, 145-156. doi: 10.1348/135910706X103284

Wilkes, J. (2009) The role of companion animals in counselling and psychology: discovering their use in the therapeutic process. Illinois: Charles C Thomas Publisher.

Willis, C., Church, S., Guest, C., Cook, W., McCarthy, N., Bransbury, A., Church, M., & Church, J. (2004) Olfactory detection of human bladder cancer by dogs: proof of principle study. British Medical Journal, 329, 1-6. doi: 10.1136/bmj.329.7468.712.

Winefield, H., Black, A., & Chur-Hansen, Anna. (2008) Health effects of ownership of and attachment to companion animals in an older population. International Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 15: 303-310. doi: 10.1080/10705500802365532

External links[edit | edit source]