A Systematic Assessment of Stress and Attention via short-term Canine Association: Differences Between Cognitive Functioning, Performance and Subjective Experience
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Humans have coexisted with animals since the beginning, with their relationship evolving over time from one that was predatory-based (i.e. eat or be eaten), to fascination, to domestication, to integration into modern day society as pets or pests (Serpell, 1995). Many people recognize that animals deserve respect, explaining the rise in international wildlife funds, exotic animal research, humane society groups and vegetarian/vegan lifestyles of the most recent decade. Social media has been a noteworthy platform for animal content of all forms, most notably highlighting pictures and videos of animals deemed “cute”, in an attempt to spread positivity through mass communication. Economically, animal activities such as zoo trips and animal sponsors show a large financial expenditure worldwide, and it has been reported that the average American pet owner spends approximately $1,500 on their pets each year for basic veterinary care, food, toys and hygiene purposes, and this is expected to reach over $60.5 billion nationwide this year (Castillo, 2015). Pet owners would likely agree that their animal serves as an extension of the family, and provides means of entertainment, objects of nurture, companionship, and in many cases happiness. This perceived relationship has made its way into clinical psychology, spawning many animal-assisted therapy programs (AAT, see Odendaal, 2000) to provide companionship and assistance to individuals that require it. It would not be strange to see a cat making its way through corridors of a nursing or rest home to receive affection from the elderly, or a visually impaired individual accompanied by his or her seeing-eye dog as they travel by airplane, as these scenarios are increasingly becoming the norm.