The therapy dogs used to improve the physical, mental, emotional and social development of the healthy or sick state. The systematic use of therapy dogs is attributed to nurse Elaine Smith.
Smith realized that patients responded very well to visits made by a chaplain in the hospital where she worked and realized that the positive effect of those visits was caused by the dog that accompanied the chaplain.
After this discovery in 1976, Smith developed a program for training dogs, with the purpose of visiting institutions. From there begins to emerge a great demand to include dogs as help for patients in different therapies.
Benefits of dog therapy
Research has shown that contact with our canine friends helps the person improve they are physical, mental, emotional and social. In addition, contact with these animals makes the patient more receptive to the treatment and the recovery is earlier.
For what I will tell you next, perhaps you will realize that it is not necessary to have any pathology to be able to enjoy dogs and feel better in their presence. Surely if you have one of our faithful companions at home, you will know what I mean.
At present, a large amount of data confirm that pets are beneficial for psychological health and can increase both the quality of life and the longevity of the human being.
The psychological effects that these animals have on us humans are among others:
1- Improvement of social skills
The dog in general improves the response of those people who have difficulties when communicating with others. We can say that the dog facilitates the interpersonal approach.
2- Calm the need for physical attachment
The need for contact is universal in human beings. These animals will always be willing to receive and give affection in the form of licks and caresses. This is why it is very indicated in people who have problems related to physical contact or are introverted.
3- Increase and improve concentration
The dog can become an interesting stimulus for people with difficulty in using sustained attention. Add that the more frequent the dog-human approach, a stronger bond will be created.
4- Increase and improvement of trust
By having a partner with whom to share experiences, self-confidence is greater, and the patient has a good self-concept regarding the ability to achieve goals and adapt to the environment.
5- Goodbye to loneliness
The company of the furry friend, reduces the feeling of sadness caused by feeling alone.
6- Improves empathy
Although the dog is an incredible animal, it does not have the ability to speak. This is why it happens to understand our companion animal we must be able to interpret expressive signals of these animals. This implies a good development of empathy as a social skill.
7- Increase self-esteem
Our dog needs us to survive. He expects us to give him food, a roof, love, to take care of him. This is why, in need, this animal also provides us with a sense of responsibility, the feeling that we are necessary to meet the needs of the animal.
In addition, our dog wants us as we are, so we feel fully accepted, making in addition to our self-esteem improve our own self-concept.
But it is also that, if it were not enough, these animals also bring physiological benefits, some of them are the ones I mention below:
8- They can detect cancer
If, as you read, these animals, as you already know, have an enviable sense of smell for many other species, and one of the most curious benefits they provide is the detection of malignant cells.
In a case study published by The Lancet magazine in 1989, you can read how the patient in question reported that his dog used to constantly smell a mole on his leg, on occasion, he even tried to bite the injury as if trying to tear it out.
The patient tells that when he sees the behavior of his faithful companion, he decides to go to the doctor to have the mole examined, the diagnosis being unfavorable since it was a malignant melanoma.
There have been many cases about this peculiar ability of the truffle dogs, detecting these, not only skin cancer but other cancers such as bladder, lung, breast, ovary, colon?
9- They make their owners stay active
Dogs tend to ask for a walk or play with their owners more often than other pets.
According to a study conducted at the University of Victoria in Canada in 2006, people with dogs walk an average of 300 minutes per week, compared to people without dogs, who have an average of only 168 minutes.
We would, therefore, include the benefits that physical exercise brings us, and leave sedentary life aside.
10- Dogs are better than medicine
According to a study conducted by the British Journal of Health in 2004, in people who have dogs, they have more controlled cholesterol, lower blood pressure, fewer heart attacks, as well as fewer medical problems than those who have They do not have this pet at home.
11- They make our children grow stronger
Having a dog at home can be very beneficial for your child. According to the science journal Science Daily, children who grow up with a dog at home are more likely to have fewer allergies and eczema than children who do not have a dog. In addition, these children become less sick and enjoy a good immunological level.
In what disorder is it most indicated?
Up to this point, you have read that dogs can benefit anyone, although the article is aimed at assisted therapy with dogs, so I will explain in what cases it is indicated to work and do therapy with these animals:
- Disorders of the autistic spectrum: Dogs can motivate and reinforce certain behaviors, as well as catalyzing emotions and encouraging socialization. They also improve and increase social skills, attention, concentration, communication, and self-esteem. Increase and improve these aspects in people suffering from autism spectrum disorders, we relate directly to dogs with a help system, approach, and intervention to improve the quality of these patients.
- Cancer: you have previously been able to read that dogs have the ability to detect malignant tumors. That is why those people who suffer or have suffered from cancer, can benefit from their company because when performing an early detection, the success of the treatment can be higher.
- Heart disease: According to the American Heart Association (AHA), having a dog reduces the risk of developing heart disease. Perhaps the relationship between the risk reduction and the dog is in the practice of physical exercise with him, and the decrease in heart rate, as well as blood pressure when the dog is with its owner.
- Dementia: Dogs that are trained to help people suffering from dementia are excellent companions for them, since the purpose of the training is to warn the person, as well as make him remember things that are important to him. For example, taking a pill, get out of bed, warn them of an alarm.
- Developmental disorders: the animal can help people with these types of problems. The patient will be benefited by some quality of the dog, related to an improvement or direct help for his disorder. For example, if we talk about a person who has Down syndrome, what the dog can provide is based on the improvement of attention, impulse control and the development of verbal communication.
- Psychiatric disorders: In this case, the fact that a person with this type of pathology one of the things that can bring a can is the fact of having to take care of it. The dogs that help these people are trained so that their owners can help them even with their own difficulties. They bathe them, they take care of them, they feed them; and that makes them feel that if they can take care of someone else, they can take care of themselves. In addition, the fact of spending time with your dog causes that decentered attention in the disorder they suffer, among other things.
- Emotional and behavioral disorders: for the psychological benefits described above, dogs make the symptomatology of emotional and behavioral disorders improve or remit. We refer to benefits such as promoting empathy, company, impulse control, and increasing self-esteem.
- Chronic pain: The animal can help in various tasks in which the patient is incapacitated by pain, such as carrying objects or bringing them, perform simple tasks that can provide the person with relief in terms of having extra help for carrying them out. In addition, the fact of creating a bond of attachment and affection person-animal makes that by being in contact and proximity with him, the brain secretes endorphins, which on the body have a natural analgesic effect.
Which dog breeds are best suited for dog-assisted therapy?
Although what is commented on in the article refers to dogs in general, there are 10 races that are more indicated than the others for animal therapy.
- Labrador Retriever: This breed is characterized by its intelligence and gentle behavior. They are usually trusting and friendly with the people they have just met. It is an easy breed to train and also very obedient.
- German Shepherd: They are very versatile dogs in terms of the purpose for which they can be trained. Priman for their loyalty and care when it comes to interacting with humans.
- Greyhound: These animals are known for their great speed, but also for their tranquility and affectivity towards their owners. They also have a special sensitivity for sounds that are hardly perceptible to the human ear and as a curious fact, they say that it is a race that barely barks.
- Beagle: is a small breed known for its long ears. They are active, and very friendly with new people as well as tend to get along with other animals.
- Rottweiler: Although you have the belief that it is a dangerous breed, it is actually very calm and sociable with people. They have a calm, trusting attitude and are very intelligent.
- San Bernardo: One of the best qualities of this breed related to therapy is its skin since the layer of its dermis is thick and this dog feels spongy. They are very protective and obedient, as well as patients.
- Carlino: small in size and big eyes. They are very energetic and have a tendency to please their owners, so they love giving pampering and affection.
- French Bulldog: this breed characterized by its bat ears, is a loving and peaceful breed. They usually enjoy tranquility and tranquility. Its small size makes it a suitable breed to live with them in enclosures with moderate space.
- Waterdog or Turkish Andalusian: this curly hair breed, is characterized by its intelligence and its rapid learning. They are used by police and firemen in rescue tasks. It has a good relationship with people and with other dogs, and you can see in them a cheerful and active character.
- Pomerania: it is a very small breed. They do not need much physical exercise so they are suitable for people with reduced mobility. They are very loyal to their owners and provide all the love they can give.