The Healing Power Of Man’s Best Friend (and Dog Therapy’s Effectiveness)

Having a pet dog has been proven to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and genuinely improve the quality of life of their owners. I can attest to this from first hand experience. My very own dog, Vegas, helped get my life back on track after I went through multiple brain surgeries and radiation therapy. I was able to focus on helping him and care for him, which really took my mind off of any difficulties I may have been going through on any given day during my recovery process.

Eventually, Vegas and I began to team up and do therapy work for children with developmental disorders, and senior citizens who simply needed a companion.  This work was amazing and felt very rewarding.

One child comes to mind in particular when I think back to some of our therapy sessions;

Arthur* was an elective mute. He literally went an entire school year without saying a word to ANYONE. He would speak at home but never at school.

Vegas and I teamed up with Arthur with the intention of getting him to teach Vegas a few commands. It all started with a simple shout of the word, “Sit!” As soon as Vegas responded to Arthur the look on his face was priceless. Like a kid on Christmas! I’m sure that my smile was ear to ear as well. We progressed from there very gradually, sometimes making progress, yet other times Arthur would choose not to attend the therapy sessions. After a few months of practice we were nearing winter vacation. We scheduled our last appointment  for the  year and I wasn’t expecting anything to have changed miraculously. We went through our session and by this time Arthur was able to say “speak”, “sit”, “stay” and a few other basic commands for Vegas. We had a fun session and as Vegas and I were leaving Arthur shouted out: ” Have a great Christmas, bye Nik, bye Vegas!!!”  This was the first time that I truly saw the effects of a therapy dog.

*All names are changed for privacy

Check out these links to watch a video of a therapy dog in work and a video featuring how Vegas helped change my life 🙂

Dog Helps Kids with Autism

Dharma Dog Cares – Go!

Is Socialization Good for My Dog?

As a professional Canine behaviourist and owner of a Dog Daycare I am often asked questions like; how often should I socialize my dog?  Or, I’ve been told that owners want help with their dog so that they can take them to a dog-park or daycare. Well, I have an answer, and some questions for you to help make the right decision for your dog at home.

Yes socialization is important, especially at a young age. However, this doesn’t mean just throwing your dog in a park and having strange dogs meet it so they can play.

Socialization should be custom to each individual dog’s needs. Whether meeting people of various heights, looks, smells, and sounds, or various dogs.

Just like some people, dogs have differing personalities, and it can be unwise to give dogs the wrong type of socialization just because you feel like it needs it.

I’ll give you a more relatable example; some people like to stay at home on Friday night with a good book and a glass of wine, and some people truly enjoy having hundreds of people around them at a loud night club dancing the night away.  If you were to take these examples of people and role reverse their life choices, chances are the person who enjoys peaceful and quiet nights would feel uncomfortable, irritated, and possibly anxious. The same goes for the social butterfly! If you took them out of their element chances are they would feel completely bored and under-stimulated.

So how do I know if a dog is suitable for the daycare environment?

Well, it depends on a variety of factors but temperament is likely the best indicator of which dogs might be perfectly happy sleeping on their bed at home and waiting for you to return from work or taking advantage of a dog daycare scenario.

  1. Age: If your dog is slowing down physically a daycare may not be the right place for him or her.  Most daycares take on dogs of any age. But, for your consideration the average age of Dharma Dog Daycare’s attendees is usually around two and a half years old.
  2. Temperament: Which category does your dog fall under? Timid? Shy? Fearful? Dominant? These types of temperaments may benefit from a slower transition to an active daycare like environment, or perhaps they are simply more comfortable on their own with humans. There are other choices if your dog is unable to attend daycare or the dog-park safely but needs the exercise; Try hiring a private dog walker. Consult your veterinarian or canine industry professionals such as your groomer for recommendations.

 

Dogs that fall under the following temperaments are usually better suited to attend a daycare: submissive, or middle of the pack. Most people have a good idea of what type of personality their dog has, but if you don’t there’s no need to worry because A good facility’s director or a professional trainer or canine behaviour therapist will be able to properly assess your dog’s needs. When in doubt, trust a professional!