LOS ANGELES, July 22 (Xinhua) -- In a first known randomized controlled trial, researchers found therapy dogs to be effective in reducing the symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.
The new study was published this week by the American Psychological Association in the Society of Counseling Psychology's Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin (HAIB). Additional new findings were presented at the International Society for Anthrozoology 2018 Conference held July 2-5 in Sydney, Australia.
Animal assisted intervention (AAI) has been used for decades, however, only recently has empirical evidence begun to support these practices reporting benefits.
Led by Sabrina E. B. Schuck, PhD, MA, executive director of the University of California at Irvine (UCI)'s Child Development Center, the research involved children aged 7 to 9 who had been diagnosed with ADHD and who had never taken medicines for their condition.
"Our finding that dogs can hasten the treatment response is very meaningful," Schuck, the assistant professor in residence in the Department of Pediatrics at UCI School of Medicine, was quoted as saying in a news release. "In addition, the fact that parents of the children who were in the CAI group reported significantly fewer problem behaviors over time than those treated without therapy dogs is further evidence of the importance of this research."
The new study randomized participants to compare benefits from evidenced-based, "best practice" psychosocial interventions with the same intervention augmented by the assistance of certified therapy dogs, according to the study.
Results from the research indicate children with ADHD who received canine assisted intervention (CAI) experienced a reduction in inattention and an improvement in social skills.
Both CAI and non-CAI interventions were ultimately found to be effective for reducing overall ADHD symptom severity after 12 weeks, the group assisted by therapy dogs fared significantly better with improved attention and social skills at only eight weeks and demonstrated fewer behavioral problems.