Dog Therapy for Children

Dog therapy for children with special needs can be a very effective healing method, due to the unconditional love pets can offer. Dogs are considered among the best pets for therapy and may also be used with seniors or disabled patients that need help (such as sightless patients).

About Pet Therapy

Pet therapy is also known as animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and involves getting a pet for a patient that has various medical or emotional problems. The pet will offer affection and the patient will also have to be responsible for the pet, which will have various therapeutic benefits.

Pet therapy will improve the physical, emotional, cognitive and social conduct of the affected person. AAT can be applied as an individual or as a group therapy. During this type of therapy, the therapists will record the progress of the participants.

Many animals can be used in animal-assisted therapy, with multiple purposes:

  • Comfort therapy with animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, dolphins, birds or lizards
  • Hippo-therapy or equine-assisted personal development (EAPD)
  • Equine-assisted creative living (EACL)
  • Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP)

Dog Therapy Benefits for Children

There are numerous benefits of pet therapy, particularly for children with special needs (abused children, kids having emotional problems and children with deficiencies):

  • Physically, the therapy can give a better mobility, a better command of the wheelchair and a sense of harmony (balance).
  • Pets relax and calm their owners.
  • Offer a chance to exercise and this leads to lower blood pressure, a diminished risk of stroke or of depression.
  • Cognitive benefits may include an increased self-esteem and initiative; the children will become more attentive, their vocabulary and  knowledge of concepts will be richer and their memory better.
  • Emotionally, the therapy may eliminate feelings of anxiety, loneliness and also reduce shyness. In cases of group therapy, the children will become active group members.
  • They will feel comfortable and secure in the presence of pets.
  • The pet therapy will lead to better communication, not only with the pets but also with the group members and the therapist, favoring a better social integration of these children.

Dog Therapy Recommendation

Professionals in the pet-assisted therapy field support this technique because of their complex and beneficial effects on children. Dog therapy is recommended for:

  • Children with disabilities
  •  Children with emotional problems
  • All children that want to lead a happier life

Dogs are considered more faithful than humans. By offering their unconditional love, dogs can be of great help for children with special needs who will come to trust them and cooperate with them. Dog therapy can lead to an easier recovery after a long illness or a serious trauma.

The dog therapy is successfully used for wheel-chaired children and is also supported by an occupational therapist. While the children are interacting with the dogs, the treatment techniques are aimed at developing certain skills and improving the child's frame of mind.