While dogs may be man's best friend, they often have a much bigger role to play than that of furry acquaintance.
For example, right here at UNT, you can see canine companions in a variety of roles. They're service animals, therapy dogs, police partners and more -- each with their own unique tasks and abilities.
In her role as director of the Consortium for Animal Assisted Therapy, College of Education professor Cynthia Chandler has seen how crucial therapy dogs can be in establishing trust between therapists and their patients.
"Nurturing touch and play between a client and a therapy animal can enhance therapeutic atmosphere, lower anxiety in a client, and help create a trusting bond between a client and the animal's handler, who is the psychotherapist," she says. "Furthermore, the animal's keen senses, especially the profound sense of smell, enable the animal to detect and respond to emotional states of a client."
Here, UNT staff and faculty experts weigh in on the many benefits of animal-human relationships.
Professor in UNT's College of Education and director of the Consortium for Animal Assisted Therapy
"A therapy animal's primary roles for participation in a psychotherapy session are that of nurturer and emotional distress detector. Interpretation of animal behavior responses can greatly aid a therapist's understanding of a client, making it possible to better facilitate a client's emotional growth and healing."
Associate professor and director of graduate studies in UNT's Department of History
"Our interactions with animals urge us to reflect on our own animality, an experience that often involves unconscious historical narrations oriented toward explaining the differences between us and them. ... When we interact with animals, we put our own bodies back into the production of scholarly knowledge, reconsidering supposed gaps between human and non- human experience in ways that produce patience, empathy and new opportunities for joy."
UNT police officer and handler of Keegan, the UNT Police Department's K-9
"Law enforcement K-9s, such as Keegan, help with the safety and security of campus and also play a crucial role in community relations. They can help connect the police department with members of their community and be a positive experience for everyone. For example, when I take Keegan for walks around the campus, I routinely chat with students about non-law enforcement topics. People are more likely to approach me when I'm walking with Keegan than by myself."