For many people with disabilities, animals are an important part of life. Special skills dogs for people, adults and children alike, who have any type of physical disability, blindness, deaf, have epilepsy, autism, depression, etc. can enhance independence, safety and community involvement. 

Therapeutic animals have many benefits, even companion animals can have a special place in the life of a person with a disability. Physical contact with an animal can be very healing. It has been proven that people who are physically and / or emotionally isolated from others because of an inability to trust, an inability to form social relationships, those that struggle with communication are able to begin the healing process through their connection with a therapy dog. Animal assisted therapy can reduce feelings of isolation and provide a feeling of safety and unconditional acceptance.

DEPRESSION 

The next time a dog comes bounding up to you for a big sloppy kiss and a belly rub don’t back away. In an ongoing study a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher has found that interacting and petting animals creates a hormonal response in humans that can fight depression. It was discovered that levels of serotonin, a hormone in humans that fights depression, rises dramatically after interaction with live animals specifically dogs. The findings also indicated increases in the amounts of prolactin and oxytocin, more of those ‘feel good’ hormones. By showing these benefits the researchers hope to help pet-assisted therapy become a medically accepted intervention that might be prescribed to patients. 

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 AUTISM

 Autism is a major public health problem that is the most common neurological disorder affecting children. Autism manifests itself most strikingly as impairments in formation of social relationships and communication. Conventional therapeutic interventions have little impact on the improvement of autistic behaviors. Existing literature suggests that dogs are crucial in children’s social and cognitive development. 

Human-animal interactions may alleviate stress in children and reduce autistic characteristics and behaviors. Animals can act as transitional objects, where bonds formed between children and animals can be transferred to humans. Service dogs can be trained to support persons with autism to cope with their sensory and social differences. Jim Sinclair, who has trained a series of service dogs to help him with his own autistic sensory difficulties, explains the ways that dogs can help children and adults with autism.   

  1. Assisting them to modulate their sensory and motor behavior.
  2. Dogs can help orientate their owners to their environments and may alert caregivers to any problems.
  3. The social isolation of a person with autism can be overcome when there is a service dog present who attracts positive attention and thus facilitates social interaction with others.
  4. A dog’s natural ability to learn routines can help its owner to learn a sequence of steps in a routine activity, while its ability to recognize and accommodate changes can help a person to be more flexible with unforeseen changes

To learn more see: Ontario Adult Autism Research and Support Network 

 THERAPY DOG QUALITIES

Not all dogs make good therapy dogs. Determining your dogs personality will help you to identify what types of therapy activities will be best suited for him and the type of training you will need to do. Its very important that puppies receive a lot of healthy human interaction in the first weeks of life. From birth until maturity, your dog goes through a number of developmental stages. What happens during these stages has a lasting effect on how your dog turns out, his ability to learn, his outlook on life, and his behavior. A reputable breeder will have expensive hands on contact with your puppy during the early stages of development. When you receive your puppy at about 8 weeks of age it is important that he be exposed to many different people, children as well as older people. This will help him to be confident in the presence of strangers. 

To learn more see: National Service Dogs Training Centre Inc

 It has long been known that the presence of a pet in a household has a profound affect on the health of its human companions. According to Healthy pets Healthy People author Dr. Stephanie Wong, “Pets decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They reduce morbidity and mortality related to heart disease.” What is clear is that there is a link between pet ownership and better health. Simply put, pets are not just good friends, they are good medicine. 

 The following presentation explains the benefits of animal assisted therapy. PDF Document (1.2 MB)

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