The Healing Role Of Therapy Dogs

I’ve put up a number of posts about how dogs help us have better lives. I’ve not touched on the subject of the Healing Role of Therapy Dogs as yet.

I found this great article about Therapy Dogs and how they help folks at some of the worst times in their lives. It is a moving account of how a little dog can mend hearts and minds.

Here then is “The Healing Role of Therapy Dogs”

In addition to the companionship that dogs are known for, some also have an extraordinary ability to foster healing. This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Anita Price, a registered psychotherapist who holds her practice in Berkeley, CA and Lafayette, CA. She is a Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in children’s therapy, who also works with couples and adults.

Evan: How long have you used therapy dogs in your practice?

Surf Dog Ricochet

Surf Dog Ricochet “Celebrity Service Dog”

Anita: I have had a dog in my psychotherapy practice for many years, in fact, before certification (for therapy dogs) began.

Evan: What makes a dog suitable to be a therapy dog?

Anita: Temperament is the critical factor in a dog’s suitability. She, or he, must be calm, steady, predictable, and unflappable in the presence of a child who may be agitated, manic, or hyperactive. In fact, I have witnessed children learn to calm themselves with deep abdominal breathing in order to be able to be close to the dog and not, in the child’s words, “scare the dog”.

Evan: What is the role of a therapy dog?

Anita: Beginning the therapeutic process takes courage. For children in particular, it may be difficult to come into a room with an unfamiliar adult, and talk about their feelings and the parts of their lives that may be painful for them. The dog’s steady unconditional love eases that transition because, in fact, the child begins relating to the dog and talking spontaneously. I have found that having a dog as a partner in my therapeutic endeavors really moves the process along more quickly.

Rusty, a shorthaired standard Dachsund, was Anita Price’s first therapy dog. He was very outgoing and had a special way of comforting upset patients.

Evan: What types of behavior do the dogs exhibit and what changes do you notice in your patients?

Schmitty the Weather Dog

Schmitty the Weather Dog “Celebrity Service Dog”

Anita: Children are remarkably open talking about their feelings with me while petting the dog. They feel that the dog is their friend and ally. In fact, just yesterday, a 4 year-old that I was meeting for the first time asked if she could please come to my home sometime and have a sleepover with the dog. So you can see how quickly the bond is formed between child and animal.

Dogs work as partners in therapy according to their temperament. My current dog, Cara, is a 10 lb. dog who is quite shy and sensitive. Children just love her and they relate when they see her shyness. For example, one child said, “Oh my goodness, she is even more shy than I am”. Again, it is the immediate bond.

“My current dog, Cara, is a 10 lb. dog who is quite shy and sensitive. Children just love her and they relate when they see her shyness.” -Anita Price

My first therapy dog, Rusty, was much more outgoing and, in fact, in family sessions, he would very quietly move and sit on the foot of whoever appeared to be most upset at the moment. He was very attuned to sadness.

In another session with a child who had been given some very disappointing news by a parent, the child fell on the floor crying. The dog, who had been napping in his bed, came across the room, walked up on her lap, and licked the tears running down each cheek. The child looked at him as if to say, “You really understand what I am feeling”. It completely turned therapy dogthe session around. Then he got back in his bed and went to sleep. It was a stunning feeling of being deeply understood with no words.

When Rusty was nearly killed by an off-leash Rottweiler, I thought very seriously about whether I should bring him back into the office while he still had staples and drains. I decided that children need to see how healing happens. Rather than frighten them, on several occasions it brought out information that the child had not shared. For example, one child talked about being trapped in the laundry room of their apartment by a large dog. And so in their empathizing with the dog’s pain, they were actually working on their own.

-Evan Price

Evan Price is a Raw Diet Educator for BARF World Inc.. He is a true dog lover at heart with a particular interest in Daschunds. Evan is also an avid sports enthusiast and bridge player. To learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, visit http://www.barfworld.com.

Sometimes dogs need their own therapy such as when they have Separation Anxiety. We can help with that by offering ways to manage your dog’s Separation Anxiety or other canine anxiety issues.

Remember. . . . . .

“She is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are her life, her love, her leader. She will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of her heart. You owe it to her to be worthy of such devotion.”  ~~Unknown

I think The Healing Role Of Therapy Dogs is a wonderful example of the many ways dogs help us as humans get through our complicated lives, especially the children. How less would our children’s lives be without their pets whether dogs, horses, cats or other pets to comfort them in their time of need and be a friend and companion when thing are going great.


About The Author

Bill Beavers, brings you pet products that provide improved Quality of Life for You, Your Family and Your Pets.

You can connect with Bill on Twitter or Facebook and follow his latest projects. For Fun, Facts and Love for our pets follow this blog for informational and entertaining posts and cool tips.


6 Responses to “The Healing Role Of Therapy Dogs”

  1. Great post. We have many of our Australian Labradoodle puppies become PAT dogs, they make great therapy dogs.

  2. Therapy dogs have an amazing impact on humans. Many people get a dog for companionship, to get them out of the house, and to help them relax., not as a trained therapy dog. That dog can still have a great bond with their owners and help them through though times.
    What people need to achieve is a balance between fulfilling the dogs needs(their natural instincts) and the owners needs.
    An owner who only gives affection when the dog “requests it” or only gives the dog attention for their own satisfaction is not fulfilling the dogs’ instinct. Many dogs with that type of relationship with their owner tend to have some sort of behaviour problem, wether its mild or severely disrupting.
    An owner who takes the dog for real walks, sets clear boundaries and limitations and provides the dog with their basic needs will undoubtedly be able to have a balanced relationship with their dog. and fulfil each others needs without even asking for it.
    It doesn’t matter what dog you have whether its a mixed breed or pure breed, you have to know what a dog needs, and that dog will be happy to give you what you need.
    early socialisation with other dogs and humans, puppy classes, and a varied environment will help any dog become a good therapy dog. Together with professional help for specific training.

    http://www.facebook.com/ValsK9Training

  3. This is a great story! Makes me happy

  4. Hello Heartgard for dogs, thanks so much and yes, I don’t think we realize just how much we depend on our dogs for support.

  5. Hi Ray, Sorry it took so long for me to reply to you. I’m sure you can find a perfect therapy dog at the local rescue or pound but if you are looking for a breed recommendation I have 4 words for you:Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. All the best to you in your search.

  6. Ray Lightstone, Psy.D. says:

    Our dog died recently and we are eager for a new small dog. But I have a private practice in my home, and I am sometimes alone with my clients in the house when my wife is at work. We want a dog with a calm enough temperament so he/she is not too disruptive in therapy. If the dog is disruptive or if a particular client is allergic to dogs, I may have to (never for more than an hour leave the dog alone upstair). If the dog barks incessantly when taken upstairs it will again disrupt the therapy and I of course don’t want the dog to feel abandoned. So I worry about a dog with separation anxiety issues. We would rarely leave the dog alone for more than a few hours. We’d like to get a dog from a reputable breeder so we know as much as possible about the dog’s temperament and health history. But we’re concerned that that will mean a puppy at the start. As much as we love puppies, we’re afraid that a puppy would be unworkable for the reasons above. We’ve been endlessly researching this, but we’re feeling stuck. Any advice?

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