Dog Therapy: How Do Dogs Treat People?

Since ancient times, it has been known that communication with a dog brings a person emotional and moral satisfaction. This is evidenced by archaeological finds and ancient works of art. Currently, the benefits of human contact with animals have been scientifically proven. Dog therapy has a positive effect on the human nervous system, has a therapeutic and health-improving effect.

What is dog therapy?

Dog therapy, or in other words, canister therapy is a method of alternative medicine aimed at healing psychological and physiological diseases due to the patient’s contact with the dog. Dog therapy is a type of pet therapy (animal therapy) – treatment of a person with animals.

The positive properties of human contact with animals have been known for about fifty thousand years. Even the first cave people noted the beneficial therapeutic effect of communicating with certain animals. However, the use of canister therapy by the American psychotherapist Boris Levinson in the sixties of the 20th century is officially documented.

Levinson used dogs in his treatment sessions with children with intellectual disabilities, late development, and autism. During the procedures, the scientist found that children have positive emotions when they see a dog. The children became calmer, more confident and more friendly.

The method of pet therapy began to gain popularity and develop widely in the West. Gradually, the method became widely used in the CIS countries. Today, this psychotherapy technique is used as part of a comprehensive treatment of diseases such as autism, cerebral palsy, mental and somatic disorders. Dog therapy promotes the development of motor skills and motor functions, improves mental abilities.

Research suggests that dog owners have an average life expectancy of five to seven years longer than people who have lived a life without contact with an animal.

Method of dog therapy

Experts distinguish two types of canister therapy – directed and non-directed. Directed involves the deliberate use of dogs in the treatment of diseases on a special course. Non – directional- natural, unconscious contact with an animal.

In medical practice, the first type is mainly used. A specially trained pet with a calm temperament helps the doctor during treatment sessions. During treatment, the patient is involved in communication with the dog. Joint games and tactile interaction have a pronounced therapeutic effect. Brushing, stroking and feeding the animal develops motor skills and promotes social adaptation.

There are specially designed programs for people with various diseases. Patients with psychosomatic disorders, motor and nervous diseases, as well as developmental disabilities begin to acquire daily life skills, increase independence, and involvement in social communication with animals and people.

It is worth noting that dog therapy is mainly used as an additional method designed to provide the best effect from the main treatment. And it is rarely used as an independent type of therapy.

The best assistants to the doctor in the treatment process are the following breeds:

  • Labrador
  • Siberian husky
  • Golden Retriever
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Bernese mountain dog

Areas of application of canister therapy

Dog therapy has a wide range of applications.

  • Observations and research by doctors show that even remote monitoring of dogs can help a person get rid of migraines and return a positive emotional mood.
  • Dogs have a sensitive sense of smell, which allows them to predict the onset of serious diseases when traditional methods of analysis are not able to diagnose them. So, in Western countries, dogs are used for early detection of signs of epilepsy and asthma attacks.
  • In times of crisis and difficult emotional moments, contact with the dog calms and relaxes. The mental state of a person is normalized. It is also important for people who need social support.
  • When working with children, dog therapy is used to mobilize attention. This is especially true for children with concentration problems and hyperactivity. According to experiments conducted in schools, children keep their attention on animals for a long time, which leads to a decrease in internal arousal. At the same time, attention on live dogs is held much more stable than on artificial toys.
  • A motivating function. Dogs are able to motivate a person, for example, to walk. Observations showed that people’s motor activity significantly differed before and after buying a pet. Having bought a dog, people repeatedly increased the duration of stay in the fresh air, which had a positive effect on physical and psychological health.
  • Help for the elderly. It is widely used both within the home and in special centers. Some geriatric clinics use dogs to maintain the quality of life of patients. Canister therapy is often not interrupted, even if the patient is admitted to a hospital.
  • Patients with incurable diseases are much easier to tolerate the course of the disease, because contact with an animal helps to cope with despair and depression.
  • Canister therapy is used to treat people with mental and physical disabilities. Scientists conducted an experiment with people with vision problems. It turned out that most of the blind participants preferred dogs as guides, rather than people.
  • Assistance to people with disabilities. Studies of wheelchair users ‘ behavior have shown that the presence of dogs contributed to a friendly environment.

A dog is not only a friend of a person, but also a good doctor. Dogs play an important role in the lives of adults and children, provide psychological support, help to cope with stress and experiences. The presence of a four-legged friend in the house makes the atmosphere calmer, cozier and friendlier.