Sunday, August 23, 2009

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are special. They visit nursing homes and hospitals. They bring smiles to folks who may need a reason to smile. These visits have come to be known as Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA).

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is even more. AAT is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal becomes an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is designed to promote improvement in physical, social, emotional, and/or thinking and intellectual skills. AAT is provided in a variety of settings and may be group or individual in nature. The process is documented and evaluated. AAT is directed by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise and within the scope of practice of his or her profession. In AAT:
  • there are specified goals and objectives for each individual
  • progress is measured

Dogs (and other species) can be incorporated into a variety of programs. Following are typical AAT goals:

Physical
  • improve fine motor skills
  • improve wheelchair skills
  • improve standing balance
Mental Health
  • increase verbal interactions
  • increase attention skills like focusing and staying on task
  • develop leisure/recreation skills
  • increase self-esteem
  • reduce anxiety
  • reduce loneliness
Educational
  • increase vocabulary
  • aid in long- or short-term memory
  • improve knowledge of concepts such as size and color
Motivational
  • improve willingness to be involved in a group activity
  • improve interactions others
  • increase exercise
Interested in therapy dog work? Join Murphy and me and the other members of Life's Journey Therapy Dogs. It's the best volunteer job ever! Contact me at deethedogtrainer@gmail.com for more information.

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