Dog therapy: types, history and advantages [behaviorist recommendations
The dog is believed to be man's best friend. In addition to being a faithful and devoted companion, for man he is also a protector and guide. Additionally, it also turns out that the dog can be an excellent therapist. Dog therapy it is more and more popular and more accessible, so it is worth knowing what it is and when it is worth participating in it.
- What is dog therapy?
- History of dog therapy
- Types of dogotherapy
- What a canine therapist should be like?
- How the contact with the dog affects the participants?
What is dog therapy?
Dog therapy (eng. dog - a dog) or kynotherapy (gr. kynos - dog) is one of the forms of animal therapy, i.e. therapy involving animals, in this case dogs. Dog therapy and kynotherapy are synonyms and mean exactly the same form of contact therapy supporting development, education, rehabilitation and treatment through contact with the dog - therapist. A dog that is properly trained and led by a qualified guardian is a motivator for the participants of the classes. A characteristic feature of this type of therapy is the creation of a specific reaction between the patient and the therapist's dog.
History of dog therapy
Dog therapy belongs to a wider field, which is animal therapy. Animal therapy, on the other hand, refers to therapy with the use of animals, including e.g. dogs, horses, alpacas.
Animal therapy is recognized as a natural method supporting treatment and rehabilitation based on direct human-animal contact. Its addressees can be both children and adults, and establishing an emotional bond with animals stimulates treatment, alleviates the symptoms of the disease, improves the patient's well-being and functioning. The main goals of animal therapy are to improve the quality of human life, improve methods and forms of communication with the environment, reduce the level of stress, anxiety, hyperactivity, and increase self-esteem. What's more, it reduces the feeling of loneliness, develops intellectual skills, manual skills and improves perceptual and motor functions. Among the methods of animal therapy, we can distinguish therapy with the participation of:
- dog (dog therapy / kynotherapy),
- cat (felinotherapy),
- horse (hippotherapy),
- dolphin (dolphin therapy),
- alpaca (alpacotherapy),
- or with other animals.
The first mentions of the positive influence of animals on human functioning come from antiquity. Hippocrates is considered to be the precursor of animal therapy, proving the beneficial influence of horse riding on development and everyday life. With the development of society, more and more centers conducted classes with the participation of animals. In the ninth century in Belgium, animals participated in the so-called. "Natural therapy " in a center for the disabled. Later, in Great Britain, animals were used in a center for people suffering from mental illnesses. A positive effect on patients was noticed - it resulted in increased self-confidence and greater self-control. In the 17th century, William Tuke, director of a hospital in England, decided to introduce pets to the psychiatric ward, which also had a positive effect on patients. However, the most intensive development of animal therapy did not take place until the 20th century. Boris Levinson is considered the father of dog therapy, who for the first time formulated the concept of "animal therapy". "Pet therapy "). In the 70s of the last century, this American psychiatrist noticed the positive influence of a dog on children suffering from autism. Levinson came to work with his dog, which accompanied him all day, and only after finishing work they left the doctor's office together. Thanks to this, the psychiatrist was able to observe the influence of his dog on the therapies carried out with children. It turned out that children with autism were able to make contact with a dog, even though it was very difficult for them to establish contacts with other people.In 1961, at a conference, he presented his first observation conclusions, and in 1964 he published his observations in a scientific article in which included the name of animal therapy. The psychiatrist found that animals are an important element in therapy aimed at achieving the patient's emotional balance.
Currently in the United States there is the largest and most significant international organization dealing with animal therapy - Pet Partners. It was established in 1977 in Portland, USA (as Delta Society, the name was changed in 2012). It currently sets standards and methods for the work of therapy with animals. In Europe, the Assistance Dog Europe (ADE) organization operates on similar principles, which sets standards for European associations. Despite this, the standards of dog therapy in Poland are not clearly regulated. People and institutions dealing with this type of therapy base their actions on the standards of the Polish Dogotherapy Association, the Polish Kynotherapeutic Society (PTK) and define their own regulations. Both of the aforementioned institutions refer to the experiences and studies of the Delta Society (now Pet Partners) organization.
Maria Czerwińska is considered to be the precursor of dog therapy in Poland. In 1987, during the preparation of the film "I see", she noticed the positive impact of an animal's touch on blind children. A dog for children becomes a friend who is patient, allows for touch and shows no impatience, which is very important for people with disabilities.
Types of dogotherapy
Based on the methodology of the Delta Society and the standards of the Polish Kennel Club (PTK), dog therapy can be divided into different types.
- AAA: Animal Assisted Activities (in PTK terminology: SP - Meeting the dog) - conducting classes with the participation of a dog, aimed at building positive relationships resulting from contact between meeting participants and the dog. During the spontaneous play supervised by the leader, the participants of the meeting accept the contact of the dog, getting used to its presence. With explicit permission, participants may pet the dog or give it an order. Classes may be group or individual in nature, therefore the time of meetings is not clearly defined, and meetings may be cyclical or one-time. The therapeutic stimuli used are touch, stroking and observation of mutual reactions. The purpose of the meetings is to provide participants with positive emotions resulting from contact with the animal. Being with animals has a positive effect on the well-being and mood of patients, helps overcome fears, stimulates activity, stimulates the development of the senses.
- AAT: Animal Assisted Therapy (in PTK terminology: TP - Therapy with a dog) - the aim is to provide specific help in the treatment of specific diseases. It consists in conducting therapeutic classes including exercises aimed at a previously planned goal related to supporting the rehabilitation and treatment of a specific person. The scope of activities performed by the dog is determined, which are to directly contribute to achieving the desired goal of therapy, and they are in the form of play. The most frequently used methods are to familiarize themselves with the body structure of the dog, brushing, stroking, giving equal orders and feeding. Most often, the methodology of these classes requires consultation with the attending physician, physiotherapist or psychologist. Classes in the form of therapy should be conducted individually or in small groups (3-4 people), thanks to which the participant's progress can be monitored and the effectiveness of the methods can be verified on an ongoing basis depending on the capabilities and needs of the participant.
- AAE: Animal Assisted Education (in PTK terminology: EP - Education with a dog) - The European association ADEu extended the division to this form of therapy. These are classes in the form of education with a dog, which aim to improve the intellectual and cognitive sphere, i.e. simply as a teaching aid. This requires appropriate preparation, knowledge and skills of people conducting classes that go beyond the scope of "Meeting the dog ". This type of education most often takes place in schools and kindergartens. Such a meeting is preceded by a specific scenario that implements the curriculum. Through the participation of the dog in the classes, the student is more motivated to learn by creating friendly emotional conditions. Children who participate in such activities faster absorb new messages and develop their interests better. Such classes can be conducted individually or in groups by a kynotherapeutic team led by an educator.
What a canine therapist should be like?What a canine therapist should be like?
Not every gentle and friendly dog can become a dog therapist right away. Dog terpauci require special training for long and labor-intensive work. The first element is choosing the right puppy and its proper upbringing. Moreover, training takes place not only before starting work, but also during the course - the dog learns all the time. The trainer's high level of knowledge, commitment and experience are essential. The work with a dog alone obliges a person working as a kynotherapist to ensure the safety of conducting classes. A dog's suitability for therapy is determined by its individual characteristics and the skills of its handler.
There are no specific requirements as to the breed of the animal, it is important that the dog enjoys working with humans and meets certain criteria. Breed traits and reflexive, instinctive behavior can play a significant role in safety during therapy. For this reason, purebred dogs are often chosen, less often crossbreeds, due to the fact that dogs of a certain breed can expect certain behavior. Dangerous breed dogs are strongly avoided. What breeds are most often used in dog therapy? These are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Beagles and King Charles Cavalier Spaniels. The role of therapists can also be played by mongrels, but this happens much less often.
In order for the dog to be used during therapy, it must pass an appropriate examination, during which the specific characteristics of the animal are assessed. During such an exam, conducted by a team of trainers and behaviorists who are qualified in dog therapy and evaluate the specific characteristics of the animal, deciding whether it will work as a dog therapist. Such a dog must, above all, have a balanced and gentle character, react calmly to unusual situations, e.g. sudden changes in the environment. It is necessary to be willing to cooperate with people and have a friendly attitude towards strangers.
In addition to the duties that a working dog should fulfill, there are also rights to which the kynotherapeutic team should follow. In order to ensure the well-being of a therapy dog, there are certain aspects to consider when working with your dog. For example, the average working time should be adjusted to the dog's predispositions, and the classes should not last longer than 30-45 minutes at a time. In the event that the dog shows signs of fatigue, the activities should be interrupted while the animal is resting, de-stressing or satisfying its needs. Moreover, breaks between classes should not be shorter than ten minutes. During the break, the dog should have a place to meet its physiological needs and rest. The working time of the animal should also be optimal - in one day the dog therapy team should not work longer than six hours, including breaks between classes. Additionally, each dog should be allowed at least two days a week to rest.
Who are the dog therapy classes for??
The main recipients of dogotherapy are children. For them, dogs are interesting and attractive in a special way, they trigger positive emotions, develop interest in the subject of classes with dogs. For children with special educational needs, dog therapy is a method supporting their development, motivating them to undertake activities that they avoid on a daily basis due to limitations resulting from illness or disability.
Dog therapy, as a method supporting rehabilitation, can be used in disorders such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome (children and adolescents), childhood autism and autism spectrum disorders (including.in. Asperger's syndrome, Rett syndrome), alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, motor disability of various origins, hearing and vision damage, mental and somatic diseases, emotional and mood disorders, anxiety neurosis, ADHD.
Classes with dogs can also be directed to people with a history of diseases or injuries that leave permanent traces in their physical or mental fitness, to socially maladjusted people, staying in nursing homes, hospices, orphanages and lonely people. Healthy people independent of age may also participate in the meetings, e.g. in educational activities in kindergartens and schools.
And who cannot take part in dog therapy classes? There are several contraindications to this. First of all, it is an allergy to dog hair, panic fear of dogs, uncontrolled aggression towards animals or infections with general weakness and fever, and parasite infection.
How the contact with the dog affects the participants?How does contact with the dog affect the participants?
The beneficial contact between humans and animals has been proven many times in scientific research. For ease of use, the benefits of contact with a dog can be broken down into emotional, cognitive, social and health benefits.
Emotional benefits are the joy that is felt when contacting a dog, satisfying the need for safety, which in turn is one of the most basic human needs. In addition, it creates a sense of constancy, provides the necessary emotional contact and helps in dealing with difficult emotions such as regret or sadness.
Cognitive benefits are related to changes in the way you perceive the world. The dog makes the world around him more optimistic. People accompanied by a dog are characterized by better self-esteem and the risk of developing depression is reduced, and in terminally ill people it reduces the intensity of depressive symptoms.
Social benefits relate to openness to other people, learning empathy or tolerance, forbearance and greater willingness to help others. It has also been observed that a person in the company of pa has more opportunities to create social interactions, which is very important in the case of people with disabilities.
The health benefits are primarily stress reduction. Observation and stroking the dog stimulate the endocrine system and help the body to release substances that relieve pain and improve well-being. Petting the dog slows down the heartbeat and lowers blood pressure, which has a positive effect on the nervous system (provided that the patient is happy to do these activities). Additionally, it limits the secretion of the so-called. stress hormones and supports the functioning of the immune system. Moreover, contact with animals makes patients calmer, more relaxed and relaxed. What is crucial, dogs accept people regardless of their disability or disease, they can establish positive relationships with them. Additionally, studies show that people who performed various tasks in the presence of animals showed lower blood pressure and fewer heartbeats per minute.
Therapeutic goals used in kynotherapy may include developing social skills, stimulating mental development, improving the development of verbal skills, improving emotional functioning, establishing a bond with the world. What's more, it has an impact on increasing locomotion, increasing motivation to perform rehabilitation exercises, eliminating fears (also of dogs) or integrating the environment - the group in which the participants of the classes are staying.
The benefits of dog therapy classes include, first of all, increased acceptance, openness to the world, increased trust, developing empathy, mental stimulation, socialization, physical contact, increased caring, physiological benefits or educational and educational benefits.
In the case of children's interaction with animals, it contributes to shaping the imagination, shaping various play reforms, empathy, developing a sense of self, social development, faster recovery, easier coping with difficult emotions or mourning, higher self-esteem and general well-being.
Dog classes also have a positive effect on children's learning. What is such learning with a dog? First of all, it is associated with fun, which is something pleasant, and not just another task that needs to be performed. The dog contributes to the growth of learning abilities, increases faith in its abilities. In addition, the dog behaves authentically at any time, does not make any appearances, does not hide anything and does not pretend to be someone else. The child will not feel the medicine until something has been given to the dog, e.g. Explain the meaning of a word to him because he is not afraid of being negatively evaluated or ridiculed.
Dog therapy also applies to children with learning difficulties. Children with reading difficulties face a more difficult situation than children who are easy to do. One such method is to read to a dog that is patient and listener that does not judge or ridicule. The presence of a tolerant dog gives the child a sense of security. Reading a dog with complete acceptance of the child's way of doing it improves emotional functioning, because a child in the company of a dog, while carrying out a difficult task of reading for him, forgets his fear and his limitations.
Dog therapy in Poland and in the world is gaining more and more supporters in working with both children and adults. Like other forms of animal therapy, dog training can significantly support education, treatment, rehabilitation and have a positive impact on mental well-being and improving mood. Dog therapy can be carried out independently of other, basic methods of treatment or therapy, having a positive effect on patients.
The condition for the effectiveness of such activities is a properly educated dog therapist, who is a guide and trainer for the dog, caring for its well-being during the classes. Then the dog willingly integrates with the participants of the classes, treating it as fun and willingly working with his guide. In turn, the spontaneity of the dog allows the participants of the classes to establish a relationship with it, thanks to which the dog becomes a motivator in the process of improving the process of education, rehabilitation or treatment of people regardless of their age.
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