The therapeutic power of dogs has long been recognised. It’s been documented in many therapeutic settings that when a dog is present in therapy, people tend to forget about the other humans and their inhibitions disappear. Dogs can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression; they ease loneliness and encourage exercise and playfulness. They have evolved to become acutely attuned to our behaviour and emotions and to interpreting our tone of voice, body language, and gestures. They can pick up when something is not right and they will do what they can to comfort us. Their aim in life is to please us. Moreover, dogs love unconditionally and they do not discriminate. They do not care whether we are old or young, scruffy, well-dressed, rich or poor. And, they can listen without judging.
Dog-assisted therapy is a therapeutic intervention that incorporates dogs into the treatment plan of people with learning and sensory issues including autism, medical conditions, behavioural issues and persons battling illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and addiction. It is used to enhance and complement the benefits of traditional therapy and can be a useful intervention for individuals or groups.
Dog-assisted therapy often serves in conjunction with traditional work done by a licensed psychotherapist, social worker, or other mental healthcare provider. Dogs used for therapy must undergo formal training to be certified as therapy dogs. We offer dog-assisted therapy sessions in both group settings and on a one-to-one basis.
We offer group therapy sessions with children who are on the autistic spectrum or have sensory, mental health, behavioural or other physical issues who would benefit from interacting with a therapy dog. The sessions are held by a qualified systemic family therapist and a therapy dog trained by the Foundation. Where necessary, a dog handler will assist the therapist during the session.
The aims of the sessions are to:
- Enhance interpersonal skills through a playful approach.
- Learn to interact and communicate with a dog in a healthy way.
- Practice touch and speech. Dogs provide a wonderful reinforcement loop – they engage with us when they appreciate our behaviour towards them and leave when they are displeased.
- Enhance expression of emotions and empathic responses.
- Integrate sensory experiences.
- Increase self-esteem.
The sessions include a variety of playful and sensory activities that encourage the participants to interact with one another and the therapy dog according to their individual readiness and level of comfort.
During these sessions the children will have the opportunity to pet, groom and play with the therapy dog, talk and read to him and even take him on a short walk. These activities will help enhance their expression of emotions and increase their self-esteem and empathic responses to others. The groups are limited to 4 participants grouped by age, ability and specific needs. Preference is given to participants aged 4-7 years. One guardian / parent would be present with the child throughout the session to observe and participate when required. If interested in registering for these sessions please contact us.
We offer one-to-one dog assisted therapy sessions run by a qualified systemic family therapist and a therapy dog trained by the Foundation. The structure of one-to-one sessions is driven by the specific needs of the client. For example, children on the autism spectrum who may be mainly non-verbal may be encouraged to give a simple command to the dog, others with sensory issues would be encouraged to stroke and pet the dog and children who need to work on their interaction skills would be guided to walk the dog around the room, recount a story to the dog or read to him. One-to-one sessions are generally held once weekly for a specific duration e.g. 10 weeks. If interested in registering for these sessions please contact us.
“Yesterday we saw some astonishing sights: reluctant readers actually reading, special needs students coming out of their shell and new personality aspects emerging from our introverted students.” – Robert Pisani, Librarian, Seminary. 26 April 2018
Learning to read is often less about intellectual limitation than about overcoming fears. “Fear can destroy intelligence,” says educator William Ayers. Animals are ideal reading companions because they: help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure, listen attentively, do not judge, laugh or criticize, allow children to proceed at their own pace and are less intimidating than peers. Participating kids make enormous strides in reading and communication skills while building self-esteem, confidence, and social skills. We offer Read to the Dogs sessions at schools or any other group settings. If interested in booking Read to the Dog sessions please contact us.
Dogs love to be stroked and humans love to cuddle and pet dogs. This fulfils the basic human need to touch. Stroking, hugging, or otherwise touching a calm animal can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine which rapidly calms and relaxes us when we are stressed or anxious. We offer Meet’n’Greet Our Dogs events to companies where we visit workplaces during working hours to introduce our dogs to the employees at their desks and allow them to stroke and pet them. We also offer dog therapy programmes to residents of homes for the elderly, resource centres, schools and other organisations that would benefit from interacting with our dogs. The dogs that are selected by us for training are chosen on the basis of their calm temperament and quick learning ability and are trained to interact calmly with people at an early age as their ability to do so is a cornerstone of their ultimate qualification as a service dog. If you would like to book a Meet’n’Greet event or dog therapy programme please contact us.