The Comfort Dog Project of Northern Uganda : An Innovative Canine-Assisted Psychosocial Trauma Recovery Programme

In 2012, BIG FIX Uganda, an American-based animal welfare organisation, began offering veterinary health services and animal welfare education in northern Uganda to improve the wellbeing of animals and their guardians. In 2014, the organisation expanded its inclusive health platform with the creation of the Comfort Dog Project − an animal-assisted psychosocial intervention for survivors of war trauma through the facilitation of human-dog companionship.

 

This article focuses on how blending community trauma counselling with dog training and bonding instruction can improve the social and emotional skills of dog guardians while creating loving, stressbuffering relationships with their dogs. Fifty-nine guardians and their comfort dogs graduated this 20-week animal assisted trauma intervention between 2015 and 2020. Psychological assessments taken pre- and post-graduation, as well as annual follow-up testing over a 4-year-period, indicate that this therapeutic model can be effective at reducing the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and improving the wellbeing of both the guardians and their comfort dogs.

Keywords: 
Animal Assisted Therapy, Humanitarian Assistance, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Prevention, Psychosocial support, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Uganda