Innovative courses in Human-Animal Bond | TSLN.com

Innovative courses in Human-Animal Bond

Photo courtesy Carroll CollegeThe new Human-Animal Bond program at Carroll College in Helena, MT offers an equine focus where students can learn how horses assist in physical and mental therapy.

A new type of college psychology program that explores the human-animal bond has been launched at Carroll College in Helena, MT. This is the first of its kind in the United States, offering students a minor in the Human-Animal Bond (HAB), within the psychology department. There are plans to create a major in this new field by 2011.

HAB courses focus on the beneficial relationship between people and animals, particularly dogs and horses. According to Dr. Anne Perkins, who founded the program, “This is a new frontier for students and professionals who are interested in working with animals in a social service setting while advancing the academic discipline of human-animal studies. Students learn how to train dogs for service or therapy. Or, they may choose the equine program where they learn how horses can assist in physical and mental therapy.”

She added these courses will prepare students going into fields like clinical psychology, counseling, physical or occupational therapy, veterinary medicine, research, biology, nursing, sociology, etc.

The goal of the HAB program is to educate students, not to train animals. “We are not trying to build a service dog or horse training program,” explains Perkins. “Our primary goal is to provide a solid theoretical background regarding the bonding process and to give students hands-on experience with dogs and horses. We also want our students to develop an appreciation and understanding of people with disabilities.”

Tia Nelson, DVM, teaches in the dog program.

“We originally discussed whether to use purpose-bred service animals, such as yellow labs bred as guide dogs,” says Nelson. “At present our goal is not to create service animals, but to create students who can teach service animals, or use dogs or horses for psychotherapy. Using service-bred dogs, given the pet over-population problem today, would be irresponsible.” It’s more appropriate to use animals that already exist, that may have the capacity to become service animals.

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“We use animals from the Humane Society. If they are able to go into service or therapy, that will be fantastic, but if they are not able to do that, we make sure they end up in good homes,” says Nelson.

A new type of college psychology program that explores the human-animal bond has been launched at Carroll College in Helena, MT. This is the first of its kind in the United States, offering students a minor in the Human-Animal Bond (HAB), within the psychology department. There are plans to create a major in this new field by 2011.

HAB courses focus on the beneficial relationship between people and animals, particularly dogs and horses. According to Dr. Anne Perkins, who founded the program, “This is a new frontier for students and professionals who are interested in working with animals in a social service setting while advancing the academic discipline of human-animal studies. Students learn how to train dogs for service or therapy. Or, they may choose the equine program where they learn how horses can assist in physical and mental therapy.”

She added these courses will prepare students going into fields like clinical psychology, counseling, physical or occupational therapy, veterinary medicine, research, biology, nursing, sociology, etc.

The goal of the HAB program is to educate students, not to train animals. “We are not trying to build a service dog or horse training program,” explains Perkins. “Our primary goal is to provide a solid theoretical background regarding the bonding process and to give students hands-on experience with dogs and horses. We also want our students to develop an appreciation and understanding of people with disabilities.”

Tia Nelson, DVM, teaches in the dog program.

“We originally discussed whether to use purpose-bred service animals, such as yellow labs bred as guide dogs,” says Nelson. “At present our goal is not to create service animals, but to create students who can teach service animals, or use dogs or horses for psychotherapy. Using service-bred dogs, given the pet over-population problem today, would be irresponsible.” It’s more appropriate to use animals that already exist, that may have the capacity to become service animals.

“We use animals from the Humane Society. If they are able to go into service or therapy, that will be fantastic, but if they are not able to do that, we make sure they end up in good homes,” says Nelson.