Those good feelings you get after spending time with a dog? They're legitimate. Not only are dogs wonderful companions with an uncanny knack of knowing what you need, they actually reduce your stress, heart rate and blood pressure and signal the release of the chemical oxytocin (the one that makes you feel bonded to another). Remarkable, right?!
Research has found that using animals, such as dogs, has a particularly powerful impact in supporting behavioural problems (e.g, aggression, opposition, non-compliance), emotional wellbeing, and Autism Spectrum symptoms (Nimer & Lundahl, 2007).
Curious about how it works? Ralph, a 3-year-old schnoodle, is my own "fur-baby" and together, we have undergone extensive training. This means that Ralphy is very obedient and responsive to my command. My handling of Ralph can be used as a metaphor for teaching skills that can help families to flourish, such as communication, self-awareness, and leadership.
Another common use of Ralphy is to boost a child's motivation to engage in therapy. I use 'Having fun with Ralph' as a reward for showing good focus, practicing a new skill, or persisting with something challenging. As a result, children are more likely to want to attend sessions and make positive choices, thereby enhancing wellbeing outcomes.
Dog-Assisted Therapy is beneficial for all individuals and research has revealed it's particular value for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. They can enjoy friendship without the pressure of human social cues, feel understood rather than judged, and have a tangible reason for practicing clear communication and emotion regulation.
I am an NDIS Provider and Ralph can be included as part of a participant's Therapeutic Supports (Improved Daily Living).