Are you a dog lover?
Those wagging tails, big dark eyes and warm furry bodies can spark instant joy, especially when you’re having a tough time.
Dogs are known for their friendly temperament and their non-judgmental listening. They’ve been bringing humans joy for centuries and play a wide variety of roles in our society today.
No wonder they’re often called ‘man’s best friend’.
Many of the jobs done by dogs are well known – we’ve probably all seen those sniffer dogs at Sydney Airport, or the guide dogs who provide invaluable assistance to their owners.
But have you heard of therapy dogs?
Therapy dogs bring joy to the people around them, and are specially trained to be calm, relaxed and friendly.
They visit institutions such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals, and are proven to boost the social, emotional and physiological wellbeing of the people they meet.
Therapy dogs bring comfort and unconditional attention to those around them. Their presence instantly changes the mood of a room, giving people a point of focus and a friendly and rewarding interaction.
They’re a soothing presence, and have been shown to encourage communication and connection.
Dogs have a natural ability to spark joy and bring a sense of calm, particularly when you’re feeling anxious, stressed or depressed.
And for people living with mental health issues – including depression, bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s disease – therapy dogs have been proven to have a positive impact in wellbeing.
So how do therapy dogs get the job?
Most therapy dogs are chosen for their calm demeanour, and then given training on how to remain relaxed when in new environments, or when dealing with intense interactions – such as being tugged at by children or being around a lot of loud noise.
In Australia, most of the therapy dogs you see are trained by organisations which rely on volunteers to train their dogs and then take them to the places where they’re needed most.
Therapy dogs can also be trained from when they’re puppies, with the goal of them working as therapy dogs in future. Providing comfort and support to those around them.
Research has shown the human-animal bond can have a really positive impact on us – therapy dogs reduce stress levels, and increase attachment responses that trigger the release of oxytocin – also known as the love hormone in humans.
For children in particular, therapy dogs are known to bring positive benefits, such as increased motivation for learning when being used in a school setting.
In any institution or facility, they lift the mood and help to make a place feel more warm and friendly. They also help welcome people into a place for the first time, as visiting somewhere new can feel daunting.
In a psychology and therapy setting, dogs can play a really special role. Not only do they bring a sense of calm and welcome to waiting rooms and reception areas, but they can also be present in therapy and counselling sessions.
With proven links between spending time with animals and your psychological wellbeing, therapy dogs make sense.
They’re loyal, friendly, and a completely non-judgmental ear to confide in, especially when we’re finding times are tough.
Why else are we excited about therapy dogs here at Dr Olga Lavalle & Associates?
Well, we’re thrilled to introduce our newest team member – therapy dog Dre!
Dre, or Doc Dre, is a toy Cavoodle, and he’s joined our team as a learner to become an official Therapy Dog. At first he’ll be there for our clients in the reception area, and will also be assisting in therapy sessions as his training progresses.
We can’t wait for you to meet him. In the meantime, get in touch if you have any questions about therapy dogs and how they could help you.
Also read more about Dre at the Illawarra Mercury.