Therapy dogs for Children with Special Needs

12 Mar, 2020

Therapy dogs for Children with Special Needs

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As a home and pet owner ever thought about how intelligent or empathetic your dog is? You may have a dog at home that is great with children is intelligent and easily trainable. These dogs make great therapy dogs. Does your dog have what it takes to be a therapy dog?

Can Dogs Help With Therapy for Children With Special Needs?

Dogs have long been regarded as man’s best friend for many reasons. These canines have that amazing ability to be able to connect with their owners or people that they are comfortable with on an emotional level. And it is widely understood that dogs are highly intelligent animals, which make them great companions and assistants to people from all walks of life.

Many homes have dogs as pets with an increasing range of breeds from the traditional Labrador Retriever to the Labradoodle puppy dogs have evergreen appeal as pets.

The universal appeal of puppies and dogs to children and adults smooths the path for these animals into any therapy, especially for children. The probability of success and a positive outcome increases when deploying therapy dogs to assist in different aspects of therapy.

PSD Dogs and their Support

A PSD Dog is a Psychiatric Service Dog. They are especially trained to help people with certain kinds of mental illness or learning disabilities. Before you learn how to get a PSD it is advisable to learn what that entails.

For children with special needs, dogs are amazing animals that can aid in their ongoing therapies. Children with special needs have a different level of emotional, physical, cognitive and social capacity and they need special attention when it comes to these levels of learning.

therapy dogs can travel with you
Therapy dogs can radically help troubled children and adults

Photo by Leio McLaren

Puppies Qualifying as Therapy Dogs Are Efficient Service Animals

Children with special needs and those that have disabilities have a limited set of actions due to their conditions. For children with special needs, they may be able to perform simple tasks and actions. However limited their learning capacity, training improves their consistency in performing tasks. They may be prone to mistakes and bungles. 

Thus, dogs that are trained as service animals can help children with special needs to perform tasks such as picking and retrieving dropped items, transferring small items from one place to another, opening and closing doors, flushing the toilet, pulling a wheelchair and other simple yet meaningful activities. 

A dog’s intelligence, empathy and strength, whatever the dog breed whether Poodle or Labradoodle puppy, qualify them for training as a therapy dog. Often the dogs can do the tasks themselves or they can assist the children in successfully accomplishing the task until completed.

The importance of service dogs to the community, especially to individuals with disabilities and learning difficulties, has become significant that some animals have special legal status and privilege to accompany their owners at virtually any place.

Dogs Are Effective Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals can be any species, but for children with special needs, their most relatable animal is the dog. Children, regardless of health condition, most have an affinity for dogs. This is why doctors and medical professionals recommend Goldendoodle and Labradoodle puppies among other dog breeds to provide emotional support for children with special needs.

labradoodles make good therapy dpgs
Labradoodle puppy as a trainee therapy dog

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra

They are not only cute and cuddly, but they are also highly intelligent and playful as well. Therapy dogs elicit a noticeable emotional connection with children with Down’s syndrome or autism. A great milestone in therapy, this achievement helps children who are emotionally and socially distant or disassociated. 

Dogs have high levels of patience and empathetic gestures that these children can recognize and appreciate. Being able to gradually open emotionally improves the overall performance of children while they are under observation or therapy.

Emotional support animals now enjoy wider access to different establishments, due to their importance as medically recommended animals. Therapy dogs enter with their children with special needs, gaining access even in clinical facilities or specialized institutions or compounds made for special needs therapy.

Dogs Are Reliable Companion Animals

Some animals train well to be both companions and emotional support animals.  Deployed interchangeably for both treatments, trained therapy dogs make the connection between the similarities of these functions. Companion dogs are more than just conventional pets for their owners. Their presence is highly appreciated and important for their owners to help them relieve their stress and anxiety.

Children with autism have difficulty with making social interactions or cannot properly make such interactions. This makes them frequent targets of teasing and bullying from other children, especially in the school setting.

Companion dogs

Companion dogs can help ease the stress, tension, and anxiety of these children when they go home. We may not know it, but children with autism or special needs can appreciate the unconditional love, undivided attention and genuine playfulness of their companion dogs. 

Thus, when children undergo therapy outside of their homes, they perform better with their companion dogs around. Companion dogs are great to have for children with special needs in order to keep them active and fit. Dogs can effectively convince children to play with them without the need for pleading and forcing.

Dogs can bring out the natural tendency of children to run, give chase, catch and throw and explore the surroundings. Parents can worry less about their children’s physical fitness if they have a companion dog to play with.

Training of Therapy Dogs

Dogs can be effective in augmenting the desired effects or outcomes of therapy for children with special needs. Most therapy dogs are specially trained, registered and insured.  These dogs are deployed and owned by the clinical facility or one of its staff, rarely their pets for the children. However, their training introduces them to the therapy process by playing specific roles.

Learning improvement therapies engage dogs by training them to be reading assistants, or secondary teachers. They function as checkers, responding to the inputs of children. Social therapy can make use of the dog’s interaction and response to the commands of the child. Children can gain confidence in moving and interacting with the therapy dog and this can help build rapport between the child and the therapy staff.

Training Dogs As Safety Animals

Children with special needs can move and act differently from regular, healthy children. Some may be overactive, others may move repetitively, while some have the tendency to harm themselves. Dogs can be trained to react and intervene in certain actions that cause harm to the children. Dogs can also help keep children to stay in one place.

The Training includes raising an alarm to the parents in case the children wander off. This is particularly useful when children go home from school or if they wait for their parents to fetch them.

puppy staring at the camera
Early assessment helps to determine if they can be therapy dogs

Photo by Bill Stephan

A final word on therapy dogs

Dogs are extremely valuable pets because of their versatility and intelligence. They are also proving their usefulness by serving as living medical equipment to individuals with medical conditions and disabilities. This includes children with special needs.

A variety of breeds go into training as therapy dogs. Whether they are a German Shepherd or a Labradoodle puppy if they have the intelligence and aptitude they can establish good relationships with children. This is why they are most recommended by medical professionals. Thus, all these point out that we need to appreciate, love and look after our dogs even more.

Further reading on dogs and dogsitting

At Housesit we always try to share useful and informative blogs and practical advice with our members. Read on to find some helpful articles with useful tips for dog owners and dog sitters about dogsitting.

Top dogsitting tips for beginners

Dog sitters’ tips – Dog’s body language and how to read it

What is a dog sit?

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