The relationship between persons with mental health problems and their dogs: A qualitative study within a nursing perspective

Siri Merete Skjørestad, Berit Johannessen


Background: There is an increasing number of people with mental health disorders in the Western world. The most common traditional therapies are conversational therapy and medications. One alternative to traditional therapies is Anthrozoology. Anthrozoology treats the interaction between people and animals, and it shows that animals can be a great contributor to human health and wellness.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine how people with mental health disorders experience owning a dog.

Methods: The chosen design was qualitative, and the methods were interviews and observations of five informants with their dogs. The analysis was conducted with systematic text-condensation.

Results: Four main categories emerged: 1. Increased social and physical activity. 2. Supporting relationship. 3. Increased responsibility. 4. Varied response from nurses.

Conclusion: People suffering from mental health disorders experience a strong and healing attachment to their dogs. This can be explained by different theories. Nurses require knowledge of the dog's positive impact on people with mental health disorders.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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