Letter from CAIRC
October 2002 Vol.6 No.3

Fourth Annual CAIRC Research Scholarship for Advancing the Study of Human-Companion Animal Relationships
Presentation of study results from the anticipated research fields

Four recipients present findings of sponsored research

Originating in 1998, the CAIRC Research Scholarship for Advancing the Study of Human-Companion Animal Relationships is an annual program sponsored by the Companion Animal Information and Research Center (CAIRC). The following are the findings of four of the five projects selected for last year's scholarship.

Recipients gathered at the Japan National Press Club on Sept. 11 to present their research results. Presenters included scholarship recipients Schu Kawashima, Kazuhiko Nakamura, Fumiko Oda, as well as two co-researchers, while attendees included the selection committee for the fourth annual scholarship, consisting of Azabu University Professor Mitsuaki Ohta, the University of Tokyo Professor Yuji Mori, and Dr. Yoichi Shoda, CAIRC Chairman and Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo.

The fifth recipient of last year's scholarship, Yuko Kubo (Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University), will present her research findings next year due to her schedule. Her project is a study of the “Expression of fur color patterns in cats — understanding the formation of individual characteristics in companion animals. Meanwhile, scholarship recipient Mari Hirayama is currently studying in the United States, so her research findings were delivered through an audio and visual presentation.

Opening Address

Chairman Shoda delivered the opening address at the event: “The annual research scholarship sponsored by CAIRC since 1998 has now provided assistance to a total of 23 researchers. This year’s grant has once again yielded a wonderfully diverse selection of deeply interesting projects, and the four that will be presented today represent research that will be fundamental to future work, a familiar pet training, animal-assisted activity at correctional facilities, and animal assisted therapy.

“Two previous scholarship recipients were selected to present their research results at last year’s IAHAIO international conference in Rio de Janeiro, and it will be greatly pleasing indeed if this year’s recipients can develop projects even further to be presented at the next IAHAIO conference in Glasgow in two years.”

This is a project that brings together researchers from a widely varying range of research areas, creating an ever broader base of study. This year, for instance, we have added our first genuine study on animal-assisted therapy (AAT), and we also have a presentation of a study of prison pet programs, which are receiving increasing attention in the United States and Canada. These projects provide a clear indication that the study of the relationships between humans and companion animals has come to be recognized as a scholarly field for which a high degree of need exists.

Exploring the future of human-equine coexistence: a study of endangered Japanese horses

Research theme: A research on relation between Japanese people and Japanese native horses, particularly focus on those in Ryukyu Islands

By Schu Kawashima
Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences
The University of Tokyo

The indigenous horses that once had come to be so intimately linked to daily life in Japan are now on the verge of extinction. In his research at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Kawashima studied the indigenous Japanese horses that once lived throughout the Ryukyu Islands, including two areas where they still exist and the island of Ishigaki, from which they have already disappeared.

Kawashima is currently studying indigenous Japanese horses that are being bred in other areas of the country, examining the genetic characteristics of horses in various regions in order to discover their roots. This presentation represents the first step toward this larger research goal. For the current study, he visited the islands of Miyako, Yonaguni and Ishigaki in Okinawa prefecture, and conducted a hearing survey of local people currently and previously engaged in horse breeding and animal husbandry.

“In general, a household on Yonaguni raised a single uncastrated male horse of the Yonaguni variety (115 - 120 cm in height). The horses were put to work in agriculture and in areas such as delivering official documents, tax collection and postal services. Until mid-1965, horse races were held in the season following the agricultural festivals and rice harvest. They are no longer used to supply physical labor. But a number of facilities have been built in the central area of the island for horseback riding, providing travelers with an opportunity for contact with Yonaguni horses.

“During the period of the Ryukyu Dynasty, breeding of horses of the Miyako variety was begun on Miyako Island in order to provide transportation animals for the samurai warriors of the Edo Shogunate. World War II dealt a near-devastating blow to the Miyako variety, but during the decade through 1965, 12,000 horses were bred. It was the greatest number produced either before or after the war, and made the island one of the foremost horse breeding area in Okinawa prefecture. Since then, however, changes in society have led to another drastic decrease in numbers. And now the only ones remaining are bred by volunteers trying to prevent extinction, and for the purposes of education at agricultural schools. In addition, challenges are under way that involve cross-fertilization and training of horses descended from the now extinct Ishigaki horse in an attempt to revive that variety.”

The relationship between horses and the Japanese people has changed greatly in the Meiji period, and since World War II. Kawashima describes of a number of crucial elements that will be necessary in order for a wide variety of horses to continue to live in Japan.

“The first is the necessity to revive and maintain the sense of an intimate connection to horses that Japanese people felt throughout the period up to World War II. The second is the need to go beyond mere conservation and preservation. By actively seeking out useful roles for these animals in areas such as education, therapy and festivals, many Japanese can be made to understand the necessity of their existence.

“Studies also show that just people tend to feel comforted and at ease just by seeing horses. And the relatively small horses that are dominant in this region are said to be well suited to activities in which people can see, touch and help care for them. Producing horses that are easy to handle will aid in their conservation by enabling a greater number of people to understand and become familiar with them.” In conclusion, Kawashima wishes that conducting this research provide people with an opportunity to rediscover what wonderful animals indigenous Japanese horses are. He also noted that he looks forward to the emergence of a society more familiar with horses due to their contact with indigenous horses.

In commenting on the presentation, Prof. Mori noted that “Japanese people in many areas of the country were once at one with horses, but now the only people who remember that history are the elderly. That history and the accompanying skills of daily life will die out if not passed on.

“Mr. Kawashima worked hard in hearing subjects one by one, and the result was invaluable. In Europe and the United States, horses are seen as companion animals just as are cats and dogs. And I think that in the future they will become equally important to us, so this research will be useful from a number of perspectives. I look forward to seeing further research results.”

Animal-assisted therapy with dogs contributes to improvement of communicative ability among high functioning autistic children (Asperger’s Syndrome)

Research theme: Research and scientific evaluation of animal-assisted therapy using dogs for high functioning autism

By Kazuhiko Nakamura
An Assistant Professor,
Department of Psychiatry & Neurology
Hamamatsu University, School of Medicine

Like ordinary autism, high functioning autism is a qualitative barrier to interacting socially. The patients have normal I.Q. levels, but the condition impacts their lives in many ways by inhibiting the social skills needed to adapt to school and work environments. Currently, a support group is formed for those people with Asperger’s syndrome. Kazuhiko Nakamura, a former assistant professor at Azabu University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, is studying animal-assisted therapy (AAT) among children with high functioning autism. He is looking into the behavioral and psychological effects of improvements in social skills through activities in which children interact with dogs. Nakamura’s team, made up of experts from a number of fields including psychiatrist, veterinarians, psychotherapy and animal training, has discussed on the subject and produced an invaluable study.

In this project, a research program was designed in which subjects each spent 30 minutes to 1 hour in sessions interacted with dogs once every two weeks. A total of 12 sessions were conducted with each subject over a six-month period. The five subjects of the study ranged in age from 11 to 16, and all had been diagnosed by specialists with high functioning autism.

The first two sessions provided the subject with an opportunity to learn how to interact with dogs, and to grow accustomed to the dog. The third and fourth sessions included self-directed activity in which the subject planned out a route and actively took the dog for a walk. The final aim was to improve the subject’s ability to plan and carry out an activity. After each session, evaluations were made of how close each subject had come to achieving the goal of the activity, and at the end of the program, changes were mapped out from the point of view of social skills.

“Suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, Subject A was in a state that made social interaction very difficult. In these circumstances, AAT provided the subject with an opportunity to go outdoors and resulted in more abundant affective expression. Subject E had been so uncomfortable with dogs that he had drawn a map of his neighborhood showing the locations of households with dogs so that he could avoid those areas. After the program, however, his phobia of dogs had been ameliorated.

“More than a few autistic patients suffer from intense fear of dogs like Subject E. This fear could be the result of past experiences. For instance, it is thought that being barked at by a dog could leave a more lasting traumatic memory in an autistic child than in a normal child. Even so, it is possible to devise a situation in which the high functioning autistic child can enjoy taking a walk with a dog.”

Nakamura chose to use dogs for the following four reasons. 1) The experience of approaching and controlling interaction with dogs helps reduce the anxiety and tension resulting from contact with animals in daily life, and thereby reduce the subject’s feelings of turmoil. 2) Participating in activities that involve contact with dogs provides the subject with opportunities to exercise outdoors. 3) Contact with dogs can be expected to ease feelings of apprehension and anxiety. 4) They planned to help subjects improve their communication skills through a self-initiated behavior. Another major advantage of using dogs was the fact that to a greater extent than with other animals, mutual cooperation is easer between well trained dogs and trainers, veterinarians, doctors and psychotherapists, which facilitates AAT.

Nakamura reported that improvements in communicative ability were among the changes common to the five subjects. They became able to express affection for the dogs, and to respond to the experience of handling other living beings. Another change was their active communication with staff members.

“At present, reports of the behavioral changes that occur in patients participating in AAT are virtually nonexistent,” Nakamura noted, indicating his hopes for the future of this field. “In the future, we would like to evaluate the subjects with the Child Behavior Check List (CBCL) scale both before and after the program, and analyze the resulting data in order to better understand its results.

In evaluating the presentation, Prof. Mori noted that “This research project used the scientifically rigorous method of defining its goal to Asperger’s Syndrome, and by analyzing its process of AAT. Because of the difficulty of such studies, this is virtually untouched territory. Since these patients require continual long-term care, I think that studying the effects that contact with animals has on the quality of life (QOL) of both the patient and the family is very important. I think this is an area in which the government should make a serious effort on in the future, and that this study is therefore a work to get a head start.

An investigation of the animal-assisted program in Canadian facilities
Nurture humanity of inmates through contact with dogs and cats

Research theme: The significance and results of Prison Pet Programs: Centered on the activities in Canada

By Mari Hirayama
Graduate School of Law
Kwansei Gakuin University

In other countries, animal-assisted activities are used in a wide range of settings. In the United States and Canada, for instance, prison pet programs have been introduced, which involve the care and raising of animals by inmates of correctional facilities. Mari Hirayama, a graduate student in the Law Department at Kwansei Gakuin University, conducted a study of these programs. Noting the recent increase in crime among juveniles and in particular the increase in atrocious youth crimes, Hirayama, herself a student of criminal and juvenile law, is concerned with the lack of empathy among suspects in custody for the lives of others, and their diminished sense of respect for other living things. Her presentation included the results of a hearing survey conducted in Canadian correctional facilities.

Hirayama visited four correctional facilities and interviewed both the staff and inmates involved in the programs. “In one women’s correctional facility in Vancouver,” she noted, “the program comprised a business. Ordinary consumers leave their dogs with the inmates, who are responsible for providing proper pet care and training dogs that behave badly to acquire necessary social skills. There is also a dog grooming salon, making it possible for inmates to acquire qualifications as pet hotel staff, pet hotel managers, assistant groomers, groomers, pet trainers and other positions. Acquiring permits for the latter two jobs makes an inmate particularly likely to find employment upon release from prison. And the meticulous care provided by the inmates got particularly high marks from consumers, so that they were regularly fully booked despite the fact that the services were not announced or advertised.”

The interviews conducted by Hirayama make abundantly clear the change of heart that participants experienced between their enrollment in the program and their completion of it. According to one inmate whose imprisonment was related to domestic violence, “To love another, and to be loved is the ultimate good.” Hirayama also noted that a woman imprisoned in another penal institution for killing her own child showed extraordinary affection for the kitten she was taking care of.

“Giving love to another is a wonderful thing. This is a program that can save lives. I've come to feel emotions I never experienced before,” she said. The study shows how taking care of animals enables inmates to develop a sense of responsibility, carry out their own responsibilities, and thereby acquire a new self-confidence. At the same time, it can be said that contact with animals eases the tension the inmates feel and instills them with tranquility.

Of course, in introducing such programs it is very important to be careful about the rights and welfare of the animals and inmates. All of the correctional institutions Hirayama visited maintain relationships with animal welfare organizations, which acted as monitors. Without thus checking on the programs, there is a danger that that the animals could simply be exploited to serve in the process of reforming convicts.

The suitability of the inmates is also very important. It is necessary to remove those who may be violent or dangerous. But according to Hirayama, it is precisely the violent inmates who need to be taught the value of life. They should therefore be given the opportunity to participate indirectly, as observers for instance, as a way of showing them the importance of respecting other living things.

Hirayama plans to continue to conduct studies at these facilities in the future, and analyze the affects that these programs have on inmates. Finally, she would like to submit her research findings to correctional institutions in Japan.

Prof. Ohta noted that “in Canada and the United States, prison pet programs have a history of about 20 years. But they haven't even begun in Japan. We need to see to it that this fact is recognized and respond as quickly as possible. Getting a late start is not entirely a bad thing. We are in a position to start off on the right foot by first learning the current state of these programs in the various countries overseas. I have very high hopes that this research will help us do that.”

A study of the applicability of childhood training to toilet training in pets — a psychological perspective

Research theme: Research into toilet training for household dogs

By Fumiko Oda
Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies
Nihon University

As more collective housing residents continue to keep pets, and as the general trend toward keeping dogs indoors continues, it is clear that thorough toilet training will be increasingly important. Until now, the thinking on the toilet training of dogs has been that items such as the environment of the toilet area and the smell of urine should be used as stimuli for conditioning the desired response. But Fumiko Oda and her group’s studies of psychology have led them to believe that it is worth researching whether excretory behavior can be shaped through the use of added incentives. Based on the theory of behavioral analysis, this research project consisted of carrying out a training program using repeated rewards for desired behavior. The object of the training is to get the dog to suppress the urge to urinate or defecate when it arises, go to the desired toilet, and then urinate or defecate instead of reliving itself on the spot or wherever it prefers. In other words, the dog should be able to go to a specified place to relieve itself.

The five dogs who were subjects of the study were all puppies from 70 to 150 days old, and their owners conducted the training in accordance with the study. The period of the study was divided into a baseline phase, an intervention phase and a follow-up phase, during which the subjects’ excretory behavior was observed and evaluated according to the criteria of behavioral analysis. Since the baseline phase was intended to determine the current state of behavior, the dogs’ urination and defecation times were recorded for several days after the establishment of the desired toilet area and facility, in addition to whether the dog had used the toilet or some other place.

In the next phase, training was conducted in which the dog’s owner would provide it with a reward (reinforcement) for the behavior immediately after the dog used the desired toilet. Owners also led their dogs to the toilet area when they appeared to be about to defecate or urinate (prompting). After the training had been carried out to completion, the follow-up period began, in which the frequency of rewards were gradually reduced.

“In almost all cases, the dogs learned the target urination and defecation behavior,” Oda said. “Among the changes among subjects during the intervention phase were conscious reactions to the reinforcement, such as an increase over the baseline frequency of defecation and urination when the dogs would go to the toilet repeatedly, demanding a reward each time. But when rewards were given as other behavioral training was begun, such as sitting up, the frequency was reduced. This is because as behaviors other than excretory presented new opportunities for obtaining rewards, the likelihood that the subjects would choose urination or defecation as a means of obtaining rewards declined.”

It was determined that the cases in which the subjects were unable to learn the desired excretory behavior were due to a failure on the part of the owner to guide the dog to the desired area or to consistently offer rewards. In other cases, dogs defecated in inappropriate places and then ate their own excrement, which functioned as a reward. In other words, the success or failure of the training can differ greatly depending on the attitude of the owner. Oda plans to continue this research, expanding the variety and age ranges of the subjects.

Prof. Ohta’s evaluation included the comment that “this research included a very close look at the problem of the pet owner’s role in training. In training a dog, the nature of the owner’s participation is always an issue. That is to say, the education (training) of a dog entails the simultaneous education of the owner. By continuing to focus on people in future studies, I think this line of research will form a major contribution to a society in which humans and animals can successfully coexist.”