Canine-Assisted Therapy Information

What is Canine-Assisted Therapy?
Canine-Assisted Therapy is the incorporation of trained, healthy canines into the treatment goals of the patient or client.

How do we know that C.A.T. really works?
Medical research consistently shows that the interaction between a person and a pet can be physically and psychologically beneficial. Physical indicators of such beneficial interaction include:
  • Lower blood pressure. slower pulse rate.
  • Significantly higher survival rate from heart attacks.
  • Accelerated recovery rates from illness and surgery.

Psychological indicators of such beneficial interaction include:
  • Decreased depression, anxiety and isolation.
  • Increased sense of well being and confidence.
  • Increased socialization and interaction with others.

What does it all mean?
A dog’s unconditional love and willingness to please translates into almost countless benefits for patients, family members, students, and caretakers.

For Patients:
C.A.T. reduces the depression and stress of being isolated in a hospital or care facility. When patients begin to smile and to socialize with the dog, they have a chance to forget they are ill. It is in that momentary sense of well being and hope that the recovery process can begin. For those recovering from traumatic injuries and surgery, C.A.T. dogs can play an integral part in their physical therapy. Using commands with a dog, playing ball, or brushing its coat are all ways to regain strength, balance, mobility, motor skills, and most importantly, the confidence to become independent again.

For Family Members:
Therapy dogs provide a welcome respite from worry, a physical and emotional means of comfort, and a safe outlet for grief. Simply petting a dog helps to relieve stress and lowers one’s blood pressure.
Families also benefit from seeing their loved ones smile or play with a therapy dog. Those moments can provide hope, relief or a chance to share happiness during difficult times.

For Students and Children:
Students with challenges, be they physical, mental or emotional, can benefit from a dog’s trusting and loving behavior because dogs do not see disabilities or disfigurement. Dogs treat everyone the same, no matter what the person's  abilities or disabilities are, and thereby serve as a positive role model to students and children. Children who learn to be kind to animals have a better chance at developing empathy, self-confidence and a sense of other people’s needs. Students with learning disabilities can benefit from a dog’s presence in many ways:

  • They are less fearful in stressful situations (such as reading out loud or doing arithmetic problems) because dogs are non-judgmental.
  • They are motivated to concentrate and cooperate with others if time with the dog is used as a reward for positive behavior.
  • They can enjoy positive play situations, such as playing ball, running, taking walks or teaching new behaviors to the dog. This kind of play helps children to develop a sense of camaraderie and self-confidence.
  • They can develop nurturing skills by learning to care for the physical and emotional needs of a therapy dog, such as brushing its coat, feeding it, taking the canine for exercise, or reinforcing important social skills, such as sitting, shaking hands, or lying down.
  • They interact more with other students because a dog makes it easier for people to talk to one another by providing a safe and enjoyable topic (the dog).

For Staff and Caretakers
Therapy dogs provide relief and a safe outlet for expressing one’s emotions. Many times our volunteers have witnessed nurses and doctors who needed a visiting dog’s comfort after losing a patient or during a very stressful day. Sitting with, petting or hugging a dog is a prescription for much needed solace for these caretakers.

Seeing and regularly incorporating a therapy dog into patient care helps to develop a strong bond between the team and staff members. C.A.T. dogs help make the work environment seem more normal, warm and friendly. Staff members come to depend on the teams’ regular visits for their own emotional well being, too. Therapy dogs also motivate people to work more cooperatively, helping to bridge relationships not only between staff members, but between patients and caretakers, too.