Anthrozoology deals with the study of the fascinating relationships that can occur between human beings and other animals. The discipline investigates the motivations, expectations, benefits and challenges that drive the relationship of human beings with nonhuman animals. Over recent decades, animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) in educational settings have attracted growing international interest, both among educators and the research community. This is because interacting with animals has potentially positive benefits for children’s social, emotional, physical, behavioural and cognitive development.
Researchers at Swansea University are undertaking research which explores what happens when schools involve animals, particularly dogs, in their practices. This research involves working with colleagues both in Wales and across the world to find out the benefits and challenges of this type of work, and the nature of the interactions that take place. Whilst a key focus is placed on benefits for pupil well-being, our research also considers how to ensure that the welfare of the animal is also at the forefront of these interactions, primarily through playful and respectful relationships.
The department runs an undergraduate module, ‘An Introduction to Educational Anthrozoology: Animals in Schools’, and currently has a number of students exploring animal-assisted interventions as the focus of their undergraduate and Masters dissertations.
There has been rapid growth in the popularity of dogs in school over recent years. There are many reasons why a school may consider getting a dog, and many models of practice and approaches to implementing this type of initiative. However, there is no guidance about best practice available for teachers.
Swansea University works in partnership with the National School Dog Alliance (NSDA) which seeks to address this gap, and to support teachers to provide happy, healthy and humane interactions between children, dogs and colleagues in school contexts.
The NSDA brings together educators, researchers and experts in canine behaviour and training with the aim of providing high quality guidance for those interested in having a school dog.