New research supports what has been said many times before – certified therapy dogs, along with some other animals, have a major positive impact on a child’s health.
Any dog lover will tell you that there is something really comforting about having a dog around. Some people enjoy the companionship, and it makes others feel safe. Whatever the reason, it can certainly boost your spirit to have a dog close by.
Because of this, more and more facilities around the world are using animals to help patients who are suffering from emotional and physical health issues. There are even special 1-year courses for dogs designed specifically for this purpose.
Research to support the claims
Green Chimneys is a facility in Brewster, NY that helps young people maximize their potential by offering residential, clinical, educational, and recreational services that foster their connections to the natural world. Researchers there have noticed the benefits that animals bring to the table and have begun using them for a variety of therapeutic roles, including PTSD problems.
An ongoing study is finding evidence that dogs, along with horses and sheep, have all shown to help people with physical and mental disabilities.
Currently, researchers at Green Chimneys are continuing to study the effects of trained therapy dogs on children with autism. They are working on a 12-week experiment that will show quantifiable evidence on how dogs affect children in a positive way.
The study is being done on 32 students between the ages of 8 and 15. Children have been divided into 4 groups of 8 students and every week two groups will attend a normal social skills lesson and two groups will attend a session that also includes a pair of therapy dogs.
Scientists will be observing to see if these children who are in the group with therapy dogs are more relaxed and better able to concentrate, or if the dogs are distractions to them. They will also be seeing if canines are of any assistance to the therapists that are working with children.
Basically, the results will show whether or not the presence of dogs is of any benefit to socialization training or not.
More studies of the similar nature
Similar research is taking place in five different locations across the country to test whether or not dogs have a positive effect on children diagnosed with cancer.
The same study has been done on adults and it revealed that interaction with a dog has decreased patients’ blood pressure, reduced their anxiety, and increased their lung function. We’ve also recently wrote about a cross-sectional study on how dogs increase life expectancy. However, this will be the first study of its kind to be performed on children.
The research involves children spending 15 minutes with therapy dogs before their cancer treatments, after which they have their pulse and blood pressure checked before and after the treatment. Kids will also be given a questionnaire once their treatment is complete.
In addition, the team of researchers will be checking dogs’ saliva to see if they are experiencing any stress during the interactions.
In total, 120 families are being enrolled in these studies, and although it is too soon to report their findings, researchers have already said that children who are able to interact with therapy dogs require less anxiety medication than they did before the study began.