Dog-assisted therapy incorporates dogs into the treatment plan to complement and enhance a more traditional therapeutic approach. It can be useful in group therapy sessions or individual
therapy. Dog-assisted therapy is used for various medical conditions, behavioural issues and autism, where it shows significant improvements in the overall emotional well-being of patients. It can be very supportive for patients suffering from mental disorders like depression, anxiety, addiction and schizophrenia. This kind of therapy is of course not an option for patients that are afraid of dogs, dislike them or are allergic to them.
It depends on the condition of the patient and the particular therapy involved, whether the dog lives in the person’s household, is by their side during the day to offer emotional support or whether the patient is being visited in a facility by a volunteer with a trained therapy dog.
The interaction with a dog can provide a sense of comfort, calm and safety, together with opportunities for physical contact and exchange of affection. Dogs can divert a person’s attention away from stressful or unpleasant responses to situations, to more joyful and relaxed ones. Developing a bond with a dog promotes trust, socialisation skills, self-regulation, communication and self-worth. The emotional life of a patient can be stabilised through the presence of a dog’s joyful and unconditional love. The dog can provide a sense of purpose and true companionship for a person, who’s life feels lonely and without purpose. Spending time with a dog increases happiness.