Our research and discoveries in Human-Animal Interaction
The OHAIRE group is leading in several new areas of discovery related to human-animal interaction. Our current research projects focus specifically on autism spectrum disorder, military veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and their families, animal welfare, and video behavioral coding. View our current projects below:
The OHAIRE Group has a strong and productive collaboration with the University of Colorado Denver Children’s Hospital Colorado, including Dr. Robin Gabriels and Dr. Monique Germone. Together we are currently replicating our prior work with guinea pigs in school classrooms, to focus on the effects of certified therapy dogs in the clinical setting of a neuropsychiatric in-patient unit for children with autism spectrum disorder. With funding from the HABRI Foundation and the Clifford B. Kinley Trust, we are conducting both physiological and behavioral assessment of children in the presence of dogs, compared to an active control condition of toys. This study uses the Observation of Human-Animal Interaction for Research (OHAIRE) Coding System. We are also using this system to assess the outcomes of Therapeutic Horseback Riding from a randomized clinical trial, comparing horses to an active control condition with a horse replica.
The OHAIRE Group is collaborating with service dog provider K9s For Warriors to evaluate the effects of service dogs on veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and/or military sexual trauma (MST) and their partners/spouses. Many anecdotal reports suggest that service dogs provide unique benefits to veterans with trauma, however there is limited empirical research on this topic. Funded by NICHD, NCCIH, HABRI Foundation, Bayer Animal Health, Merrick Pet Care, and Newman’s Own Foundation, the goal of this project is to empirically evaluate the effects of service dogs on military members with trauma by comparing those with trauma with service dogs to those receiving standard treatments, while on the waitlist for a service dog. Our group is currently evaluating key clinical indicators of mental health and wellness through standardized survey assessments and cortisol sampling. The long-term research goal is to evaluate the efficacy of human-animal interaction strategies to enhance the mental health and wellness of military members with PTSD and their families.
The OHAIRE Group is collaborating with Petco® and the Purdue Laboratory Animal Welfare Science lab run by Dr. Brianna Gaskill to evaluate the effects of a playful handling technique commonly called tickling on rat welfare and human-animal interactions. With funding from Petco® this study is the first to explore the effects of this interaction on both pet store rats and the humans that interact with them. Although the benefits of rat tickling are relatively well known for laboratory rats, their effects on pet store rats and humans remain unknown. We evaluated pet store employees, customers, and rat owners with standardized and specialized surveys. We also evaluated pet store rats using ultrasonic vocalizations, fecal corticosterone, play behavior in the cage, and reaction to an unfamiliar human-approach test.
The OHAIRE Group is collaborating with service dog and facility dog provider Canine Assistants to evaluate the effects of human-animal interaction in a four-year partnership funded by Elanco. This partnership allows for multiple studies investigating the impact of the human-animal bond on various populations. The initial study is one of the first large-scale studies to collect scientific evidence of the emotional and psychosocial effects of canine assistance and companionship for service dog recipients. A concurrent study is investigating the impact of living with a service dog on a family member of the service dog recipient. In addition to the emotional and psychosocial outcomes, this study also measured the effect of a service dog on caregiving and family outcomes. A third study is the first national study of the impact of facility dogs on their handler’s wellbeing, as well as their job satisfaction, burnout, and stress.