Therapy dogs

Therapy dogs  provide support, affection and love with out judgement to children and adults living through challenging times in their lives.

Animal Assisted Services

AAS can broadly be defined as any service that includes an animal as part of the process of targeted therapeutic gains, improved health and wellness as well as being less goal directed and more casual or spontaneous.  Some fields of AAS are:

AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy): Is often carried out by therapists in a health or social care setting.  It is a structured, goal-directed intervention where the animal is used as an integral part of the treatment process, designed to improve a clients physical and emotional function.  The animal assisted therapy is documented and evaluated in the individuals treatment plan.  

AAA (Animal Assisted Activities):  Therapy dogs are used in recreational and visitation programs to enhance the quality of life of people through  providing comfort, affection and support.  These  activities can be delivered in a variety of environments, such as hospitals, retirement home, nursing homes, hospice and disaster areas for example.  The dogs can make long-lasting connections which has a positive impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of the people they spend time with.  

All AAS types can overlap which  provides a holistic approach in working towards better health       “health of the whole being”

Our program is based on the Animal Assisted Intervention International Standards of Practice (January 2019 revision).  We strive to work at levels above these standards.

AAT   is carried out by Counsellors, Allies Health practitioners and Psychiatrists who use animal interactions with patients to aid in their recovery, the options to incorporate dogs are extensive.

AAT is broken into  two therapy types such as:

  • Increased Balance – reaching to pat a dog, walking with a dog, bending down to pick up a toy
  • Increase Stamina – extending a walk with the dog, grooming a dog, playing tug with a dog
  • Increased Hand mobility – opening and closing a treat tub, taking a harness/collar/leash off the dog, drawing or photographing a dog
  • Memory Work – recalling the dogs name, remembering the dogs breed, remembering commands and care tips
  • Cognitive Development – choosing type of activity to do,  treat choices, what to ask the dog to do
  • Range of strength and motion – playing games, throwing toys, hiding things and helping the dog look
  • Development of Self Esteem – empowerment of command and response, a dog is completely accepting of anyone despite appearance or capability, social barriers are removed
  • Stimulation of senses and positive brain chemicals – fun interactions, fur and warmth when patting and grooming, physical contact without threat
  • Therapy for speech – giving commands, saying dogs name, whistling
    • Initial meetings can be difficult and for the right clients dogs can fill the silence or help awkward feelings to dissipate simple by just being there in the room.
    • Dogs can diffuse the tension in the air and provide natural common ground between the client and the therapist.
    • Sometimes people find it easier to talk through dogs rather than people and its a great way to gather information, particular relevant to therapy with children.
    • Dogs will react to distressed people in a way that can be read by  the therapist, this allows the therapist to make any necessary changes to the session to accommodate the change in mood.
    • Animals respond to our behaviour in an instant so clients will be able to judge the results of their own actions by the dogs response therefore social awareness can rise.
    • The positive relationship and interaction between the therapist and the animal shows the client an example of a good/ positive  love and respect and this can help the healing process begin for the client,
    • The dogs presence is soothing and can break down the communication barrier between the client and the therapist, nerves are soothed and the sharing of information is supported.

AAA  – Provide opportunities  to enhance an individuals quality of life  by:

    • The dog providing affection, comfort and support to people without judgement.
    • Short meet-and-greet sessions of pets visiting people in a hospital, nursing home , court houses, etc.
    • No specific treatment goals are planned for each visits
    • Detailed notes and documentation are not required.
    • Visits can be spontaneous and any length of time.

AAT and AAA Training

Working with and visiting diverse people can be challenging work, so it is very important to determine if your animal is happy to work in this chosen field.  We train and assess Handler teams in these following areas:

    • Basic Obedience
    • Dog Manners (indoors & outdoors)
    • Temperament Test

and through educating we :

    • Ensure that you know your responsibilities as a Therapy dog handler when on premises.
    • Ensure that you adhere to and put into practice the animal welfare five freedoms.
    • Ensure that you know the signs of a stressed dog, can read your dogs body cues and how to eliminate the stress.
    • Understand the Health and wellbeing of the dog.
    • Understand zoonosis.

Please review the “Therapy Dog – the process” page for further information.

*NOTE:   not every dog is suited for this role.*