Pets Providing Therapy
Our volunteers provide therapeutic visits with their accredited dogs to people in aged care facilities, public and private hospitals, palliative care, treatment centres, schools, universities, mental health facilities, special needs facilities and other organisations. Most of these visits are classed as Animal Assisted Activities, but some of our volunteers are involved in providing Animal Assisted Therapy.
Animal Assisted Activities (AAA)
Animal Assisted Activities are the general “meet and greet” activities that involve pets visiting people. Such activities provide positive distraction to the distress of hospitalisation, and the separation from friends and family. They alleviate loneliness, and provide a vehicle to improve communication and social skills.
Our volunteer teams visit individual residents or patients in their rooms, in communal areas, or on hospital wards. Some of our dogs do entertaining tricks, but most are just happy to be stroked, patted and admired by those they visit.
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)
Animal Assisted Therapy is defined as the clinical healthcare treatment process in which an animal is used as an integral part of a goal directed intervention. A health professional will direct AAT as part of their practice. Specific goals for each client are identified by the health professional, and progress is measured and documented. Animals must meet specific criteria for health, grooming and behaviour.
Some of our volunteer teams have worked with health professionals to provide Animal Assisted Therapy, resulting in significant improvements in the motivation and progress of the clients. Examples include:
- Encouraging a client to walk towards the dog or alongside the dog
- Using the dog as an incentive for a child to climb stairs or do leg exercises
- Assisting a patient with hand injuries, by using the dog to take treats from the patient’s hand, or to brush and stroke the dog.
Benefits of Pets Providing Therapy
For our volunteers:
- Joy of sharing their beloved dog
- Increased feelings of usefulness
- Increased self esteem
- Quality time with their dog
- Increased social opportunities
- Pride in their dog
- Development of dog training skills
- Development of sense of community
For the dogs:
- More quality time with their humans
- More opportunities to show off how wonderful they are
- Heaps of affection and attention
- Increased opportunities to learn
- Increased owner attention to animal health and well being
For those we visit:
Pets providing therapy can lead to improvements in the physical, social, emotional and cognitive functioning of those visited, and offer opportunities for motivational, educational, recreational, and therapeutic interactions. Examples of these benefits include:
- Withdrawn residents who become more sociable and join in activities with others whenever the dogs visit
- Improvements in memory and concentration of those interacting with the dogs
- Physical improvements resulting from patting and stroking the dogs, walking towards them, or feeding them treats
- Opportunities to remember pets and other situations from the past and to share stories
- Smiling and laughing when the dogs perform tricks
- Providing distraction when residents are angry or distressed
- Creating a more relaxed atmosphere, particularly in hospital settings.