Dogs have been bringing smiles and joy to our faces for years on end, but that just the start of what they are capable of. Animal-assisted therapy has become increasingly popular amongst the lives of thousands and thousands of people and has improved their lives to an extent they weren’t even sure was capable. On the whole, the goal of animal assisted therapy is to alleviate or help people cope with some symptoms of various conditions where possible.Therapy dogs are sometimes called “comfort dogs” because they support a person’s mental well-being by providing them with attention and comfort to make them feel safe. We’ve made the complete guide to answer all your questions about Therapy Dog’s!
What are Therapy dogs?
There is a lot of information floating around the web mistaking Therapy dogs for Service dogs or other types of assistance dogs. We have made this blog to give you all the information about Therapy dogs, all in one space!
A Therapy dog is a dog that is trained to provide affection, comfort and support to people, often in settings such as hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools/colleges, libraries, airports, a place of work or disaster areas. Therapy dog’s help provide a sense of comfort, companionship and can reduce feelings of anxiety and/or depression to name a few benefits.
Their roles vary from actively participating in physical therapy to giving children with learning disabilities or anxiety, the confidence to read aloud and improve reading skills. Moreover, they also can play a key role in recovery and stress because of their non-judgmental natures and willingness to interact with anybody no matter their physical or emotional state.
Their responsibilities are to provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals whether they are a 1:1 Therapy dog or a community therapy dog. dogs have good temperaments and friendly, easy-going personalities. 1:1 Therapy dogs provide Therapeutic activities to their key person, whereas School or community therapy dogs, are encouraged to interact with a variety of people so it’s a must, that they need to be able to enjoy human contact as they will be petted, cuddled and handled by a variety of unfamiliar people, sometimes in ways they may not be used to.
What can they do that is different to a normal dog?
Our Family Therapy Dogs can be trained to help with whatever your struggles may be - mealtimes, being safe outside, bedtimes, transitions, behavioural intervention, anxiety distraction, emotional support as well as being the child's/children's best friend and companion. A Therapy Dog can provide life changing support to the whole family. The dog will boost independence and confidence allowing for quality family time and days out!
Therapy Dog visits for the Community
Many studies have shown that having a Therapy dog present can help reduce depression, anxiety and decrease blood pressure. During visits our Therapy dogs can offer many benefits to all age groups including:
· Lowering stress levels and blood pressure
· Taking a person’s mind off of personal problems, pains, worry or anxiety.
· Bringing Smiles, Joy and Love.
· Helping with communication from the comfort of the dog
· Can provide Deep pressure Therapy
· Interactive Games where the dog is involved creating a bond.
What are the benefits from a therapy dog?
Therapy Dog and Handler teams are all unique and provide people with exceptional opportunities for therapeutic contact. Therapy Dogs have demonstrated an increase in the calmness, happiness, and overall emotional well-being. Studies have been pursued that have demonstrated a decrease in both the stress levels and blood pressure of people during visits by Therapy Dogs.
Below are a select few groups of people that benefit from Therapy dogs and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT).
How Therapy dogs help people with Autism
The main effects of having autism spectrum disorder (sometimes referred to as ASD, or simply autism) are generally based around difficulties with communicating and socialising with others. Since one of the most beneficial qualities of Therapy dogs is how it can improve a person’s social skills, it makes sense to why Therapy dogs have become increasingly popular amongst those diagnosed.
Here are a some of the many benefits a therapy dog can provide people with autism:
· Improved social skills
· Sensory support
· Building friendships and a social bridge
· Lowering stress levels and anxiety
· Help promote positive changes in the child’s behaviour
· Comfort and calming during meltdowns
· Better sleep pattern
To read more on Therapy dog’s for autism click here.
How Therapy dogs help people with Anxiety and depression
Often times, those with depression or anxiety avoid contact with the outside world, either out of fear or stress of what might happen. Alongside this some people struggling with these mental health problems spiral into a whirlwind of negative thoughts on a vicious cycle. This is where the dogs step in to help break that cycle by providing comforting companionship and a sense of purpose for their owners. People with anxiety and depression can gain tremendous benefits from Therapy dog’s including:
· They can detect signs of an anxiety attack before it happens
· Can fetch medication or a drink during an anxiety attack
· Get others attention to help the person in distress
· Helps calm a person down during an anxiety attack through distraction, such as licking their face or providing a paw
· Trained to provide deep pressure therapy to soothe their owner
· Provide companionship to those alone in situation
To read more on Therapy dog’s for Anxiety and depression click here.
How Therapy dogs help people with PTSD
Short for ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’, PTSD is a severe mental health problem that is associated with witnessing a particularly harrowing event. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt and is often associated with combat and veterans, but not restricted to those. While medication and group counselling are a very important part of the recovery process for those struggling with PTSD, animal therapy provides different types of assistance others may not be able to. Therapy dogs help the recovery process for those with PTSD by:
· Reduces feelings of depression
· Creates motivation for faster recovery
· Reduces the feeling of loneliness with companionship
· Reduces levels of anxiety
· Increases exercise levels
· Helps maintain a better sleep pattern
· Can provide Deep pressure therapy.
· Encourages communication
How Therapy dogs help children in schools
Having a dog present in the classroom promotes a positive mood and provides significant anti-stress effects on the body, reducing anxiety and depression which in turn enables the children to focus on learning. Recent research has also proven that, the presence of a therapy dog in a school setting has also been linked to improvements in students attendance, confidence levels and increased motivation to participate in learning activities from the simple act of having a four-legged friend by the students side.
Bale’s Buddies currently has more than several school dogs working in schools across Devon, where teachers and trainers have both witnessed the amazing effects our Therapy dogs have on the students in the classroom. To read more about Therapy dogs in classrooms or to apply click here.
How Therapy dogs help the elderly
As we become older our social circles can get much smaller. A spouse may have passed away and with modern families being more dispersed, it is easy to become isolated. Therapy dog’s usually offer therapy in a range of settings, including retirement living, community care, residential aged care homes, hospices, rehabilitation centres, and in a senior’s own home.
Some of the other benefits of Therapy Dogs with the elderly include:
· Improved motor skills and joint movement
· Reduced feelings of depression
· Improved self-esteem
· Reduced loneliness
· Improved verbal communication
· Reduced levels of boredom
· Reduced levels of anxiety
Who else can benefit from Therapy dogs?
As the main aim for Therapy Dog’s is to provide love, affection and comfort, everyone can benefit from their companionship, in particular:
· Someone who feels lonely, anxious or is dealing with other mental health problems.
· People with chronic illnesses, heart conditions or arthritis
· Patients recovering from surgery
· A person suffering from grief
· Someone living with dementia
· Patients undergoing treatment for cancer
Frequently asked questions about Therapy dogs:
We often get asked a lot of the same questions, so we thought it would be best to address them here and save you the effort of going elsewhere! Remember, you can also contact us with any questions you have about animal assisted therapy or our services and what we can offer you as we’d be more than happy to help you!
What is it the science behind it all?
The answer: In short, it’s a hormone called Oxytocin. This hormone bonds us to our pets and is responsible for producing that sense of happiness and wellbeing in your interactions with the pet.
Can my dog be therapy dog?
Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A certified therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therefore, there is no simple answer to this question because it really depends on the activities you are expecting of your dog and your dog’s suitability to take part in the proposed activities. If you have an idea about what you would like to do with your dog in a therapeutic setting, you can then determine whether they are suitable. We have our own assessments as to determine the suitability of a dog to take part in a specific activity. If you already own a dog and are wanting to explore and find out whether your dog will be suited for a therapy dog, please contact us.
What does a dog need to become a Therapy dog?
To become a Therapy Dog, dogs need to pass several temperament and behavioural assessments. They need to demonstrate that they won’t react negatively to any sounds, actions or behaviours coming their way and would be receptive to the attention they receive in return.
What are the requirements for a Therapy dog?
It is recommended that your dog has been with you for at least 6 months and be over 9 months of age. Your dog will have to demonstrate basic obedience, patience, tolerance of unusual sounds and sights, and be gentle around new and old people of all ages.
In addition to Therapy dog requirements, your dog should be in good health and up to date with vaccinations and parasite prevention.
Whether it is a visit to a Hospital, School, Family home or Residential, we see smile's light up around the room when they see the dog arrive. We see children increasing their literacy skills as they read stories to our Dog's and children who rarely speak come and greet the dog when we arrive. We see the happy faces of the people we visit and hear the joy in their voices knowing that Our Therapy dog's do make a difference.
Interested in a therapy dog for your child/family or school or want to have a visit from one of our trained therapy dogs? Learn more at www.balesbuddies.org