The Pacific Index

Student helps improve dog therapy program

Melissa Mullaly

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Dogs have been said to provide comfort without words and teach the value of responsibility. For children of domestic abuse, the interaction with a dog is invaluable to improving their learning abilities and behavior. According to psychology major Rebecca Klassy who spent years observing this affect first- hand.

Klassy dedicated a significant amount of time with The Little Dog Laughed, a nonprofit organization that applies dog training as a model for non-violent

and problem solving, psychosocial, and life skills education.

For her senior capstone project she evaluated their animal-activity program and introduced ways of further improving it. She observed 20-minute interactive sessions between the dogs and child residents of domestic violence shelters.

She explained that during these sessions the volunteer dog trainers would provide the children with the tools and guidelines to respectfully work with the dogs and share clear communication.

Key objectives of the exercises were to learn how to build a positive relationship based on empathy, shared communication, and trust and how to break

down large problems into manageable issues.
When Klassy evaluated each session she assessed

several categorical learning and behavioral domains. Overall, she found that children showed a positive change in engagement, attitude, affect, following instruction, concept recognition and comfort in approaching the dogs—with no significant change

in social rapport.
She emphasized that it was a privilege to work

with such an impactful program and that it was something she had a great interest in pursuing.

“It was cool to see that even the data showed that there was positive changes happening in the lives of the children,” said Klassy.

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Student helps improve dog therapy program