Spending time with a pet has proven physical and mental health benefits and, so, the supportive role of animals has led to the rise of AAT: Animal-Assisted Therapy.
Therapy dogs are a common form of ATT. Known for their quiet and calm nature, a therapy dog can benefit your clients. But the logistics can be complex and not all patients will appreciate the furry addition.
Considering a therapy pet? Discover the advantages and disadvantages of a therapy dog below.
Advantages Of A Therapy Dog
Spend time with a well-behaved dog and it’s easy to see how a therapy dog can be helpful to a client. The easy bond between a human and a dog can help people relax in stressful situations, such as when opening up to a therapist.
Animal-Assisted Therapy Has Proven Advantages
The companionable nature of a therapy dog is a relationship like no other. Spending time around animals has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, help with depression, and even lower blood pressure.
Therapy Dogs Help Children
While therapy dogs can be beneficial for all ages, they’re often at their best when helping children. Therapy dogs have limited demands, allowing children struggling with trauma to form comfortable and easy bonds.
Children who have struggled with developing interpersonal relationships can find that bonding with a therapy dog helps them improve these connections. Spending time with a dog can increase patience and empathy, as well as build confidence and communication.
If your practice caters to young children frequently, a therapy dog might be a real benefit.
And The Elderly
The elderly are another age group that can benefit from AAT. In particular, those that can no longer care for a pet. Seeing a therapy dog can remind them of previous pets and reduce feelings of loneliness.
A practice in an area with an older population can potentially benefit from a therapy dog. As well as encouraging current clients to talk freely, it might even attract new clients struggling with loneliness.
You Can Potentially Train Your Own Dog To Be A Therapy Dog
Not all dogs have the right attitude to become therapy dogs, but those that are well-socialized, calm, and friendly can potentially perform the service. If you feel your dog has a good temperament, you might consider getting them an AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate.
The New Service Can Attract New Clients
If you’re looking to expand the reach of your practice, a therapy dog is an exciting new avenue to explore. Animal-assisted therapy is becoming increasingly popular and it appeals to people who might otherwise have dismissed therapy.
With that said, therapy dogs should not be seen as a quick way to boost the client list. This is a commitment and you must consider all the advantages and disadvantages before deciding.
Disadvantages Of A Therapy Dog
The biggest disadvantages to therapy dogs are primarily logistical. The dog will need to be properly trained, have a safe space to live, and you’ll need to have the correct legal protections.
Beyond this, therapy dogs won’t be right for every client. While some can benefit from AAT, others might find the presence of an animal off-putting.
Some Clients Might Not Like Dogs
A fear of dogs is common. Some of this fear might be motivated by past trauma, but for others, it’s instinct.
In these scenarios, introducing a therapy dog can be a disadvantage. The client will feel uncomfortable and potentially afraid.
The obvious solution is to leave the dog elsewhere when dealing with these clients. But this will present additional logistical difficulties. For a small practice, there might not be space for the dog.
You Might Need To Hire Additional Staff
Unless you plan on either purchasing a therapy dog or training your own, you’ll probably need to hire additional staff. A trained therapy dog will need a handler, who will keep an eye on the dog to ensure it’s comfortable.
While some dogs and handlers work voluntarily, they will have limited availability. For a frequent service, you’ll have to consider the financial implications.
There Are Legal Issues To Consider
Your liability insurance will need to cover any accidents caused by the dog. A therapy dog should never present a danger, but there is always a risk. Before getting a therapy dog, you must speak to your insurance provider.
Is A Therapy Dog Right For Your Practice?
A therapy dog might be right for your practice, especially if you work with children or the elderly. The calming effect of time with a dog can help those struggling with stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as aiding communication.
However, logistical complications can make introducing a therapy dog tough. In addition, while some patients might benefit from AAT, it can be detrimental to others.
Before committing to a therapy dog, consider how the animal will fit into your practice, the everyday changes you’ll have to make, and your long-term goals.