Stimulation and calm for the soul

Once a week, Nelly the therapy dog makes a visit to Barbara who suffers from dementia. When she strokes the dog or it nudges against her, distant memories flicker in the old lady of a shepherd dog which lived in her parents’ yard when she was small. The hour with Nelly in animal support therapy releases Barbara from the greyness of her everyday life and gives her a sense of being alive once more. Just how such therapy works is explained by the experts at Maxi Zoo.

Dogs are especially suitable for this kind of therapy because they relate to people and quickly establish a social and emotional bond. They exhibit openness towards everyone whether young or old, healthy, ill or disabled.

Where are therapy dogs deployed?

Their sphere of activity is extensive. Therapy dogs work as co-therapists in psycho, ergo or speech therapies, in clinics, old people’s homes, chid and youth facilities or even directly in a family or at a patient’s home. Dog and keeper must have completed a course of training for this. Sometimes the therapist themselves is also the dog handler, while in other cases a “dog and handler” team is booked for therapeutic purposes. Therapy dogs are never worked non-stop. They are actually quite normal family dogs who “work” a few hours a week with people.

What do therapy dogs accomplish?

Sometimes the mere presence of these four-footed creatures is enough to relax a patient out of a vegetative state or to enable a child to concentrate on its speech therapy. The dog is always integrated into the therapeutic process but mustn’t actively drive it. A touch here, a sniff there or the repeated invitation to play can open doors with people. They become more communicative, more attentive and more confident and allow physical contact. The animal helps them to dispel angst, stress, tensions and insecurity and to develop trust. It cultivates empathy, social competence, conformity, motivation and motor activity. And not least, dogs impart a feeling of warmth and security.

What makes a good therapy dog?

Any breed of dog can become a co-therapist. What’s important is that they are healthy, well-balanced and people-friendly. They must neither become immediately unsettled nor anxious through excitement, environmental influences or unpredictable human behaviour. A good relationship with their keeper is very important for therapeutic work.

What distinguishes a therapy dog from other animal companions?

It is established beforehand, within the scope of the medical or therapeutic treatment, what effect the dog is to have on the patient. The results are then documented. Dogs who simply visit old people’s homes now and again or live there permanently are not therapy dogs but important social partners. Also, assistance dogs for blind or handicapped people have a different function and receive different training.

Call into your local store today to discuss your dog’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts.