Dogs are wonderful helpers, as assistance dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs. But have you ever considered if they need therapy themselves? Here Sylvie Savage ponders – do therapy dogs need therapy…
So often we reach out to dogs to help us cope and deal with emotional difficulties, and it’s no wonder. Dogs seem to have a natural ability to calm us with their presence and will physically put themselves in our path if we need some stress relief.
I’ve witnessed this behaviour many times. When we have a nervous guest in our home, our little dog Mabel subtlely ends up on their lap and they instinctively start to pet her, which visibly calms the person and makes them more comfortable. Or when my husband and I have heated debates, our older dog Mollie, comes running over and starts pawing at us and distracts us from what we’re discussing. It’s remarkable to witness once you identify what they are trying to do.
Because of this ability, some of our loyal companions are trained to be therapy dogs. The responsibility of this work is to provide physiological and psychological support to individuals who are anxious, stressed, in pain or recovering from a crisis. We now see therapy dogs in airports, schools, hospitals, residences, and in the workplace. Even Harvard’s Medical School Library has a therapy dog.
It’s one of the many remarkable gifts that dogs provide us and they do so even with very little in return. Clearly, their ability to ‘feel’ our emotional needs identify that they themselves are emotional beings and it’s important to consider their needs as well. We sometimes see dogs as invincible and magical and in many ways, they are, but being attentive towards them as they are towards us helps them too! Offering ourselves to their needs with no judgment and with unconditional love will help them relieve stress, anxiety, loneliness, feelings of isolation and even some aggressive behaviors.
The next time your dog is feeling anxious, try to identify what is stressing them and distract them from the situation if possible. Being attentive to their concerns will help create a calmer more confident dog and you might be surprised at how your dog responds to you – I know I’ve been.
What do you do to look after your dog?
About the author:
Sylvie Savage has always had a strong sense of partnership with animals. She inspires people to be mindful pet partners and is continually identifying new ways to enhance our pet relationships. She has been featured in major publications, radio, television and national pet events sharing her unique views and insights on understanding your relationship with your pet. You can read more of her insights at www.sylviesavage.com
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