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How therapy dogs are changing lives at HillView
21 November 2019
Written by Sarah Cabral
Expert Dog Trainer
Found by the Hound
There is something truly special about dogs. People from all walks of life relish in the happiness that dogs bring to their day. Our four-legged friends have a natural ability to bring a sense of calm and ease while providing emotional support for so many varying circumstances, so much so that Therapy Dogs are now a common fixture in many community facilities. With their presence proving widely successful for individuals and groups, the demand for Therapy Dog Team visits is higher than ever before.
Owners of Found by the Hound, Anthea and Sarah, run the largest Therapy Dog Team in South East Queensland. Our growing team visit a variety of establishments across the Gold Coast and beyond, including Schools and Hospitals but where we find our team most active, is alongside the elderly residents in aged care facilities. The residents enjoy quality “pats and chats” with our Therapy Dog Team and bask in the positive and interactive atmosphere created by our dogs in their presence.
What are Therapy Dogs
Contrary to popular belief, a Therapy Dog is not an Assistance Dog and although they both serve a very special purpose, they do not share the same job description. Therapy Dogs have several benefits ranging from therapeutic and psychological to academic and cognitive. Although Therapy Dogs are matched to clients and facilities based on a carefully considered criteria, Therapy Dogs are not trained to perform task work for a specific individual, and therefore are not considered an Assistance Animal.
As Therapy Dogs do not need to meet the same comprehensive criteria as that of an Assistance Dog, it is common to see Therapy Dogs in all shapes and sizes, breeds and ages. If the dog is well behaved, obedient and calm, they can be considered for the job and undergo assessment by a trained professional for approval.
Unlike an Assistance Dog, a Therapy Dog does not have public access rights. Only with exception to the specific places they are visiting and working. Typically, the dog would be granted rights by individual facilities at their own discretion.
Why are Therapy Dogs Beneficial in Aged Care Facilities?
The presence of Therapy Dog Teams in aged care facilities has proven highly beneficial and successful.
The transition for those moving from their home into an aged care facility can be a stressful and confusing time for many. Statistics show that over 64% of households have a pet and with that in mind, it is evident that many of these individuals making the transition into full-time care would have needed to relinquish their pets to the care of family members or animal rescue groups. For anyone, this would be an emotional and distressing time particularly for our senior citizens.
A 2018 Animal Welfare League report found that only 18 per cent of residential aged care facilities allowed residents to live with a pet. This would mean that for many, surrendering their beloved animal is a certainty. Found by the Hound bridge the gap for these residents. Allowing time to interact with dogs and perhaps reminisce and discuss the times where they had a dog of their own. A clear conversation starter, these visits provide an opportunity for residents and staff to break the ice, share stories and connect on mutual interests and feelings of happiness. In conjunction with social benefits, there are also an incredible amount of health benefits for Aged Care residents, making our time that much more fulfilling.
How Does Therapy Dogs Benefit the Elderly?
For the elderly, studies have proven that the presence of Therapy Dogs has made significant improvements to their quality of life. With several benefits ranging from therapeutic and psychological, academic and cognitive it is evident that Therapy Dog Teams have an important role to play in Aged Care Facilities.
Therapy Dogs can help increase levels of interest, happiness and lift the mood of those around them. With regular visits, it can give residents something to look forward to. It can also provide motivation to stay active and mobile in order to enjoy time with their new friend.
Therapy Dogs can enhance a state of calm, relieve stress and reduce levels of tension. Their presence can also increase mental stimulation. Enjoying time with a pet can be a more familiar and comfortable form of “intervention” than other therapies can offer.
Therapy Dogs can reduce blood pressure by alleviating stress and encourage mobility by boosting activity levels.
Having a therapy dog in the presence of residents can often break the ice by providing a mutual topic for discussion, lifting the moods of many and bringing laughter to the room. For many, the transition into an aged care facility can be difficult and lonely so the connections generated from spending time with a dog can ignite friendships within the facility.
Why Found By The Hound Started a Therapy Dog Team?
After developing a highly successful and reputable dog training company, Anthea and Sarah wanted to use their platform in the industry to give back to those in their community. By bringing likeminded members of the Found by the Hound community together, they have successful built and continue to grow the largest Therapy Dog Team in South East Queensland.
“Our members and their canine companions graciously volunteer their time” Anthea says. “We dedicate time outside visiting hours to train together to ensure each dog will be a wonderful fit for the individuals and groups that we work with. As well as providing company and cuddles, our therapy dogs also show off new tricks which will hopefully bring a smile to the residents and create a social and jovial atmosphere”
As the Therapy Team grows, so does the capacity to take on more facilities so that Found by the Hound can continue to spread the positivity to those who need it most.
“We are always looking for volunteers to join the team. The more owners and dogs we have, the more residents we can spend time with”.