The first recognized therapy dog was a four pound Yorkshire Terrier named Smokey. It was during WWII; Smokey was rescued by a soldier and traveled with his human through various battles. When his human was hospitalized, Smokey was brought to the hospital. The dog slept on his person’s bed, keeping him company and raising his spirits with amusing canine antics. Pretty soon nurses were borrowing Smokey, to entertain other wounded soldiers in the hospital.
Continuing the tradition
It is a well known fact in the dog loving community that dogs are beneficial to a human’s well being. Scientific research proves interacting with a dog lowers blood pressure, releases endorphins and alleviates loneliness. There are a number of children’s programs that utilize therapy dogs in varying capacities.
Need a reading buddy?
A child who is struggling to read will often refuse to do it out loud for another human. She may feel ashamed for not “getting it” like kids her own age. She may feel annoyed when constantly corrected by well meaning adults. Reading to a dog however, there are no judgments, there is no shame and the child feels no pressure sounding out words. A dog willingly sits and listens as the child learns. These programs are often run through a local library.
Time honored secret keepers
Dogs are loyal, trustworthy and know how to keep a secret. Sometimes used in therapy sessions for child victims of abuse, a dog offers a safe, non threatening environment to open up about their feelings. Dogs may also be used as confidants for children that are grieving the loss of a loved one.
Prescription canine; pet and repeat.
Kids get sick; some end up in the hospital. No matter how festive a children’s hospital is made up to be, it is, in fact, still a hospital. There aren’t many kids that enjoy being stuck indoors, feeling miserable and waiting to get better. Having a dog to interact with has shown to raise spirits (it’s those endorphins mentioned earlier), which increases positivity and leads to a healthier outlook towards treatment.
Those with other needs
The special needs children are varied, each holding their own set of unique obstacles to push through. More often than not these kids will do for their therapy dogs what they wouldn’t dream of doing for any other human. Bonds that are created between child and canine are as mysterious and exceptional. With their therapy dog, children with special needs improve their communication skills, learn how to better interact and in most cases lowers anxiety levels.
Dogs are patient and non-judgmental, which is what makes them amazing in this capacity.
To find local therapy programs go to Therapy Dog Info
Renee Moen is a veteran shelter employee and certified dog trainer. Specializing in basic obedience and behavior modification, she recognizes each dog for their unique qualities and utilizes those for positive training experiences. Renee is an advocate for dispelling breed myths and denouncing breed discrimination. All dogs are created equal, owners on the other hand…
Living in sunny Longmont, Colorado with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats and five birds, Ms. Moen is also an accomplished writer with five romantic comedies to her credit. She enjoys hiking in the foothills (with her fur babies), roller skating and swimming.