How Therapy Dogs Help People with Special Needs…and How You Can Too
Our world is a beautiful and diverse place full of animals and humans who can do amazing things.
Some of these awesome people, however, need just a little extra help. Perhaps they have an emotional or cognitive disorder that makes it difficult for them to be social with people or, perhaps, they have a physical challenge such as blindness that requires an extra helping hand…or paw. Whatever the need, there are thousands of therapy dogs making a difference for these remarkable people, and so can you.
Dogs and Autism
Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning that people who have autism may exhibit an array of symptoms that vary in severity. For some children and adults living with autism, social connection can be challenging. Because it can be uncomfortable for some people with autism to hold eye-contact, converse, or engage in physical contact with others, therapy dogs can work wonders.
Because dogs can merely be petted and do not give hugs, per se, many people with autism feel more comfortable showing them affection. More importantly, once they become comfortable showing an animal affection, they may also be more inclined to show people affection. Take, for example, the young man in this heartwarming video.
Dogs and People with Physical Challenges
Whether it’s a seeing-eye dog helping a blind person go about their daily life or perhaps a dog who has been taught to bring clothing and other items to a person who uses a wheelchair, there are numerous tasks that dogs perform which help differently-abled individuals.
Dogs are even helping US Veterans overcome PTSD by allowing them to connect, receive love, and by acting as a calming presence.
Becoming a Therapy Dog Owner
If you’d like to train your animal to become a therapy dog, there are a few general avenues to consider. Perhaps you would like your dog to be a comfort animal who visits the elderly or people in hospitals. You may also consider loaning your dog out to various organizations who do physical therapy work with dogs and humans. There are a lot of options. Starting locally and talking with the Humane Society in your area is usually your best bet since they will know about the different opportunities in the area.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) has a long list of approved therapy-dog groups. This is a great place to start if you curious about the options in your specific area.