This is Gizmo. He is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and he is an emotional support therapy dog. He can be used in canine assisted animal therapy in a variety of ways, which of course will always be mindful of Gizmo's position in all this. This aims to improve a person's social, cognitive and emotional functioning. A counsellor may use a therapy dog in treatment as then the counsellor may be viewed as less threatening, potentially increasing the connection between client and counsellor.
There are also animal assisted activities, which is an umbrella term covering many ways in which animals can be used to help humans. One example is to facilitate emotional or physical mental health and wellbeing through pet therapy or the presence of therapy dogs.
Research suggests using therapy dogs in response to traumatic events can help reduce symptoms of depression, post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.Research shows therapy dogs can reduce stress physiologically (cortisol levels) and increase attachment responses that trigger oxytocin – a hormone that increases trust in humans. Dogs also react positively to animal-assisted activities. Dogs produce oxytocin and decrease their cortisol levels when connecting with their owner. Often dogs feel the same when engaging in animal assisted activities as if they were at home, depending on the environmental context.
Animal assisted therapy can: tech empathy and appropriate interpersoanl skills: help individuals develop social skills:
be soothing and the presence of animals can more quickly build rapport between the professional and client, and
improve individual’s skills to pick up social cues imperative to human relationships. Gizmo can process that information and use it to help clients see how their behaviour affects others.
More recently, therapy dogs are being used as a form of engagement with students at school and university. Gizmo and I are extremely proud as we are lucky enough to work in an exceptional local Private Secondary School where we have the full support of staff and pupils.
A recent report highlighted children working with therapy dogs experienced increased motivation for learning, resulting in improved outcomes. Therapy dogs are being used to support children with social and emotional learning needs, which in turn can assist with literacy development.
Research into the effects of therapy dogs in schools is showing a range of benefits including:
decreases in learner anxiety behaviours resulting in improved learning outcomes, such as increases in reading and writing levels
positive changes towards learning and improved motivation, and
enhanced relationships with peers and teachers due to experiencing trust and unconditional love from a therapy dog. This in turn helps students learn how to express their feelings and enter into more trusting relationships.
You can choose however not to work with him if you prefer. You can also choose if he should be in his crate not interacting with you or if you would like him to be free in the room to cuddle you and play with you.
Gizmo is fully insured to work as an emotional support therapy dog