When my late Father was in his care home, a specially trained dog and its owner used to periodically come and visit him, and the other residents. The dog had a really positive effect on everyone, raising spirits and providing for a shared positive experience. The dog made people happy!
We have just acquired a new puppy for my family. So new in fact that we haven’t got her just yet. Tilly is a Golden Retriever, and we can’t wait to welcome her in to the family later this month. What she will make of our chickens (and vice-versa) is anybody’s guess!
Getting a puppy and being reminded of the dog in the care home got me thinking about the role of dogs in therapy. It’s an area of work known as Pets As Therapy (PAT).
Pets As Therapy
Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be cuddled and handled, sometimes clumsily and to enjoy that contact.
Dogs can help bring confidence to young people
There are situations where assessed and authorised dogs can help young children with reading difficulties (junior-aged school and SEN children).
Research suggests some children can be nervous and uncomfortable when reading aloud in a classroom environment, especially those who are struggling. Children can read to a therapy dog, as they are non-judgemental, attentive and perfect listeners!
Evidence suggests a dog attending school once a week can raise not only the reading standard of a child, but help with their self-confidence, behaviour, social and emotional welfare too.
Environments where therapy dogs can be beneficial
It’s not just in school and care homes where dogs can have a positive effect. Other environments where affection, comfort and love to people is needed including in hospitals, hospices and disaster areas.
It’s not just dogs than can help people – Owls can (Twit) too!
I also read in the newspaper earlier this month that Owls may be more effective that dogs for helping autistic or abused children in therapy sessions. Children with a history of abuse often find it easier to open up to someone who is holding a little owl compared to a regular therapist. I’m not 100% convinced, but maybe I can’t imagine an Owl perched on the end of my arm! Read the article and see what you think.