The use of therapy with dogs to treat psychological and social problems is increasingly common due to the many benefits it provides.
In this article we will address the keys to dog therapy , benefits of its application, requirements, training, selection of animals, indications, etc.
Keys to dog therapy
Several studies carried out by psychologists to analyze the benefits of therapy with dogs, highlight some keys to the success of this type of treatment, which is increasingly popular:
- The dog is always there, both in good times and in bad.
- The animals are shown as they are, without pretending their feelings, which favors a sincere and spontaneous relationship between dog and person.
- The dog uses a non-verbal language to communicate, very rich in nuances and signals. Taking into account that spoken language only represents a small percentage of what we express with our gestures, tone of voice, corporeity, etc., it is possible to think that communication between animal and person is richer than it might seem a priori .
- Patients, especially when they suffer from a psychological problem or are at risk of exclusion, do not feel intimidated by the animal, since the dogs that take part in the therapies are stable and gentle, seeking balance and calm between people ( something usually implicit in canine instinct).
- The animal judges, it is funny, curious and playful.
- Encourage friendship and interaction with other people.
- Increases the ability to take responsibility, especially with children and adolescents
Goals of therapy with dogs
Therapy with dogs has numerous objectives, depending on each particular case, although we can include them in:
- Increase and development of the degree of social and personal communication.
- Enhancement of self-esteem and the ability to fend for oneself.
- Stimulation of psychomotor skills by practicing the tasks derived from the interaction with the animal, such as brushing, caressing, taking a walk, etc.
- Promotion of social skills.
- Combat depressive and / or anxiety states.
- Encourage the degree of responsible awareness.
Benefits of dog therapy
The benefits and advantages that can be obtained from therapy with dogs are very diverse.
Several studies carried out by prestigious psychologists and doctors endorse the benefits of this therapeutic practice.
It has been shown to be effective in treating Alzheimer’s , AIDS, autism, depression, loneliness and old age.
Here are the benefits (not only psychological, but also those that concern other areas of health) of therapy with dogs.
Here are the benefits, depending on your area, derived from therapy with dogs:
- It favors attention in children with ADHD .
- Fight depression
- Reduction in the degree of stress and anxiety
- Raises your spirits and encourages the will to live
- Fosters a sentimental bond
- It favors physical and social contact
- Increases the degree of self-acceptance
- It helps with the expression of our own emotions and makes us more aware of them.
- Boost the degree of empathy
- Provides emotional stability.
- Fight loneliness
- Helps with mental stimulation
- Increase the sense of usefulness.
- Encourages self-confidence and coping with problems.
- Reduce the aggressiveness level impulsive behaviors.
- It enhances concentration, memory and attention.
- Increases the predisposition to learn new things
- Promotes a sense of discipline
- It promotes the development of the habits of daily life.
- Stimulates language and increases vocabulary level.
- Improves psychomotor skills
- Enhances coordination ability and the development of muscle strength
- Improves precision motor skills thanks to movements such as stroking, putting food on it, brushing it, etc.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improve social skills (respect, communication, empathy, collaboration, etc.)
- Reduce harmful or negative behaviors
- Promotes learning through play
- It helps to become aware of the importance of collaboration, commitment and teamwork.
- Promote physical and social contact with more people.
- Increases the feeling of social belonging.
- Increases the desire to explore and the degree of own initiative.
- Help the conversation.
- Encourage compliance with social rules
- Helps eradicate social prejudice
- Enhances the perception of one’s own body
- Increases control of space and development of the vestibular system
- Stimulates the senses and provides visual, auditory and tactile stimuli
In which cases is therapy with dogs recommended?
There are many ailments that can be treated with this type of therapy:
- Conduct disorders
- Grief for the loss of loved ones
- Psychic problems
Types of dogs
Dog therapy requires dogs that show a balanced and docile temperament. They must be endowed with great patience and tolerance for difficult situations and strong contact without ever showing aggressiveness .
That is why the training of therapy dogs is essential, not only for the patient but for the animal itself, who will enjoy their work more as long as they are used to enduring certain types of situations without harming them in any way. .
Selection of the animal for dog therapy
The dogs that work in therapy are subjected to exhaustive veterinary examinations to rule out any type of health problem.
Before proceeding with their selection, their temperament and character are also thoroughly examined, to rule out situations that may interfere with their work, and also to determine what type of patient and therapy they will be assigned to.
Preferred breeds for dog therapy
Although some breeds, such as the Labrador Retriever or the Golden , are more popular for use in therapy with dogs, due to their character and physique, there is no specific breed to carry out this task. Medium-sized dogs are usually chosen with patients in bed or wheelchair in mind, but all are equally suitable and the selection of one type or another will depend on the type of mission to be carried out.
Training the dog for therapy
Once the animal has been selected, training for dog therapy is carried out.
You are assigned a guide and the dog will be in your charge throughout the process. In this way, a sufficient bond is guaranteed for the animal to interact with it just as it will in the future with the person it will help.
Little by little, the dog is becoming more and more capable of detecting when his handler is going through a stage of stress, when he needs to be encouraged, or to rest, etc.
Training is always done with the help of positive reinforcement , and never fear or submission.
The dog’s rhythm is respected and it is not put to work until it is truly ready for it.
He is also trained not to be capricious or show any emotion lightly, such as barking, moaning, etc. Your strength of mind and your balance should be worked on.
The animal’s own temperament must be taken into account in order to assign it a training in accordance with it and with the specific function that it will later perform.
If, for example, it is a very affectionate and cuddly dog, it will focus on dealing with children in general and with autism, or people who will have very physical contact with the animal.
If, on the other hand, it is a dynamic animal that does not like to be still too long, it will be more appropriate to be used with adolescents and with behavior problems or children with attention deficits in order to help them promote controlled activity, responsibility and respect for social norms.