Scientific studies on the healing power of dogs – Part 6

The Power of Love and Companionship

Using dogs for healing, therapy, companionship, or emotional support is not a new thing in our world. But what has become new is the extent of its popularity and success rates in the United States, where there are more than 60 million homes who have one or more animals as pets. Of these homes, 30% of convicted child molesters, and 48% of convicted rapists have admitted they abused animals in their childhood.

It seems rather ironic that this same animal is gaining such popularity as healers of mankind, or maybe not. But what is even more exciting is that this same breed is offering hope to the offenders themselves, through prison programs and unwanted dogs. The canine has a healing heart, and will always forgive a harsh tone, a day of being ignored, or not being “number one.” This is where they are different than people. And therapy dogs have been around for a long time to visit lonely elderly people at retirement homes of disabled people in group homes or their own apartments. Therapy dogs help blind people have a normal life, by assisting them in their everyday living activities. This type of therapy dog used for healing is separated into two areas: animal assisted therapy and animal assisted activities. The second type of dog does heal through visitations at care homes or hospitals, through companionship and being petted, with less formality than the therapy dogs-providing love and caring to many different people. Pet visits are always welcome at these places, with more and more documentation proving that those who own pets are more likely to live longer than those without.

The animal assisted therapy dog is different because it is part of a very formal and “carefully designed program, with objectives that matches one specific patient to one specific animal. Severe mental problems and physical disabilities are begun under a therapy dog with a trained dog handler. As time goes on, the patient’s interaction is increased gently and gradually at a time. Records are maintained as the patient becomes more responsive to the dog, confident at touching and brushing the dog, or even walking it.

But what is most important about a healing dog is it ability to motivate patients in different forms of therapeutic interactions, without judgment or pressure yet always with love, kindness and endless patience. Throughout this form of connection, the patient begins to feel useful and loved.

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