Previous Research

Puppies for Parole: Shelter dog training and  prison inmate behavior outcomes.

Statewide program implemented by the Missouri Department of Corrections in which more than 1,700 dogs have been trained and adopted. ReCHAI partners with four correctional facilities to measure outcomes in the prison offenders (self-esteem, locus of control) and staff (job satisfaction). The project studies the effects of offenders working with shelter dogs teaching them basic obedience skills and properly socializing the animals, making them more adoptable. Once the dogs have successfully completed the program they will be sent back to their original shelter to be placed up for adoption.


Human-Animal Interaction for People in Transition (HAIPT)

Human-Animal Interaction for People in Transition (HAIPT) is a multi-phased project developed in collaboration with the Missouri Statewide HAI Task Force. HAIPT’s mission is to facilitate successful transitions for individuals to healthy, fulfilling lives through support and enrichment of existing Missouri HAI programs. In Phase One of the HAIPT project, 108 human-animal interaction programs were identified across the state of Missouri, which serve a range of populations in many capacities.

The HAIPT pilot study takes the field of animal visitation to a new level by collaborating with volunteer human-animal interaction organizations to collect outcome data from patients. The overall goal is to have animal visitation programs be widely accepted as beneficial in health care settings for human patients.


Equine Assisted Activites for Veterans

Equine Assisted Activities for Veterans explores the effects of equine assisted activities on PTSD symptoms, emotional regulation, and social engagement in military veterans. The veterans participate in a therapeutic horseback riding program for six weeks. ReCHAI partners with three PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) certified riding sites.


Dog Ownership Benefits Families of Children with Autism, MU Researcher Finds Parents should consider the sensitivities of their children with autism when choosing a pet.

“This research adds scientific credibility to the benefits of human-animal interaction,” said Rebecca Johnson, a professor at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, director of ReCHAI, and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing. “This research helps us understand the role of companion animals in improving the lives of children with autism and helps health professionals learn how to best guide families in choosing pets for their families.”’

Find out more here.


Dogs & Autism Spectrum for Kids (DASK): Exploring Potential Benefits of Animal Interaction for Families of Children with Autism

The overall goals of this study were twofold: 1) to build an interdisciplinary network of collaborators in the areas of autism research and human animal interaction; and 2) to collect data to investigate the potential benefits of human-animal interactions among children and families with ASD.  This preliminary study provided the foundation for seeking future funding for an interdisciplinary research project with the long-term goal of enhancing treatment effectiveness for children with ASD.


Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound

This community shelter dog walking study provides adults and families with children an innova51huP+e2rZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_tive way to increase physical activity. It is an ongoing partnership with the Central Missouri Human Society, the MO Department of Health & Senior Services, and the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department. The study consists of weekly (Saturday morning) walks with shelter dogs on a nearby nature trail. Participants are also educated about nutrition and the health benefits of walking. We measure body weight and physical activity levels outside of the program. Our findings show that by taking the dog walks, participants are motivated to further increase their physical activity. The study also increases community awareness about dogs available for adoption. In addition, the dogs become more adoptable through better socialization, more exercise, and leash-walking.


Caring for both ends of the leash: Effects of owners visiting their dogs hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

The study aimed to examine clinical effects in dogs hospitalized in a small animal hospital intensive care unit when owners visit them. We sought to determinate if there were beneficial or detrimental effects on the dogs that were visited. We also studied the owners’ perceived benefits of their visits.

Ask the community: Barriers & facilitators of physical activity and exercise

A one-year assessment project to identify beliefs and attitudes about physical activity (PA) & exercise and key factors that will facilitate participation in physical activity & exercise programs among vulnerable, socioeconomically disadvantaged adults.  It will also identify the major barriers to PA and exercise in this population.  An assessment of PA & exercise programs available in Boone County will occur in Phase 1.  In Phase 2, focus groups and self-completion questionnaires will be used with 100 adults in community settings (public housing facilities, churches, community centers & businesses) to address the assessment project aims. Assessment findings will be used to develop and implement a community-based PA and exercise program.


Walking for Healthy Hearts

This study tested health effects of coupling certified dogs and a handler with public housing residents in a walking program of two different lengths.

The study found that weight loss in a 50-week group surpassed that of national weight loss programs. Participants believed that dogs loved them unconditionally, and made walking pleasant. Additionally, the protocal was found to be inexpensive and minimally burdensome to participants.


Exercise Motivation and Fitness through Dog Walking among Older Adults

Studied whether older adults who walked daily with a dog would be more likely to engage in physical activity outside of the program and have an increase in walking speed  versus those in a human companion walking group or a no-treatment control group.

The study found:

  1. No significant differences in weight over time.
  2. Both walking groups became competitive with their walking time & distances.
  3. Dog walking group expressed an affinity for & a bond with the shelter dogs that they walked.
  4. Given the challenge of walking a dog on a lead, dog walking group believed that their balance & walking confidence improved.
  5. Human walking companion group sometimes discouraged each other from walking.

Pet Pals Study: Reducing Stress in Nursing Home Residents With a Friendly Dog

The study aimed to:

  1. Describe older adults’ perceptions of participating in a dog visit    protocol.
  2. Evaluate the impact of frequent visitation on the behavior and activity level of  the dogs.


Exploring human-companion animal interaction for families of children with autism

The purpose of this study was to investigate the role that pet dogs may play in the family context with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The questionnaire was completed by 56 participants.  Parents responded that the “Dog helps increase social interaction,” the “Dog helps increase safety” and the “Dog helps increase relaxation” as benefits for the children.

Documented stress for these families created an expectation that there might be significant barriers to having a family pet dog, but this was not found. The positive responses of findings support the need for further study of the potential role of pet dogs as a social support in this family context.