Socialinis darbas

patirtis ir metodai

The use of contact with a dog in the process of social support

Review

There is currently no research on the use of contact with a dog in the process of social support in Lithuania. So, the aim of this research is to reveal the wide variety of possibilities to apply human-dog bond in professional social work interventions. To reach this goal analysis of scientific literature and qualitative research was made. There were 6 informants interviewed: two experts from United States, two pioneers of dog assisted interventions in Lithuania, and two social workers, who are interested in dog assisted activities and apply them in their voluntary or work practice. Data analysis has been conducted using principles of grounded theory method.
Results of research have shown that dogs are highly reliable and predictable therapy animals that almost every group of clients can benefit from. From the perspective of Humanistic theory we can state that integration dogs in the process of social support helps to create preconditions for relationship with client (enhance congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy). The use of contact with a dog as a social support professional might be twofold: (1) interventions with assistance of therapy dog (presence of dogs, petting, playing, training, congruence, etc.) and use of family dogs (for evaluation of family dynamics or for psychosocial support). Appropriate training is needed to achieve the best results in practice of dog assisted social work.
There are only initial private initiatives appearing in Lithuania that aim to provide social support using human – dog bond. Thus we recommend that academic community work together with practitioners towards development of dog assisted interventions in Lithuania, enriching social work students' curriculum, and academic acknowledgment of this method.

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