In honor of World Puppy Day, we recently wrote about the many benefits of man’s best friend. Today is National Pet Day, which gives us an opportunity to talk a bit more about our world’s amazing animals—some of whom are trained to participate in animal assisted therapy programs.
What are Animal Assisted Therapy Programs?
We humans like to think of ourselves as the masters of the universe, but there are some powers we do not possess. And some pretty mysterious and awesome ones that animals do.
In an effort to harness the remarkable impact animals can have on our wellbeing, animal assisted therapy programs continue to grow in popularity. Who doesn’t love a cuddly friend?
Animal assisted therapy can take many forms, though it broadly refers to the involvement of animals as a form of treatment for people. Dogs might be the first critter to come to mind when you think of animal assisted therapy programs, but horses, cats, and even dolphins, llamas, and elephants can be trained to provide therapy.
But what good can they do for people?
What Good Can Animals Do?
You’d be amazed! There are animals that are specially trained to help people of all ages—from little ones to the elderly— to help with “social, emotional, or cognitive functioning.” In addition to the many benefits of companionship, animals can help fight anxiety, stress, obesity, and depression, in addition to providing more lifesaving benefits, like sniffing out allergens to sensing seizures.
For children with developmental, social, or behavioral issues, pets can do wonders. For little ones, interacting with an animal…
- Causes an automatic relaxation response and a release of endorphins (oxytocin)
- Lifts spirits and lessens depression
- Encourages communication
- Provides comfort
- Increases socialization
- Lowers anxiety
- Helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders
- Reduces loneliness
- Helps children focus better
- Can improve literacy skills
- Provides non-stressful, non-judgmental environment
- Increases self-confidence, reduces self-consciousness
- Can help build motor skills
- Provides motivation to exercise more
Support for Wounded Warriors
Pets are also playing a significant role in helping our military. Organizations like Paws for Purple Hearts are pairing dogs with veterans struggling with PTSD, giving them an opportunity to train service dogs to help fellow soldiers recovering from combat injuries. There are also thousands of dogs serving on the frontlines in active war zones, helping in numerous capacities. (You can send them some treats if you want.)
According to vetdogs.org, military therapy animals help combat stress control, in addition to providing physical and occupational therapy, and emotional therapy.
Click here for more resources regarding military service dogs.
Let’s Hear it for Pets!
In prisons, hospitals, mental health facilities, nursing homes, schools, and even war zones, animal assisted therapy programs are changing lives and fostering emotional healing. This National Pet Day is a great time to give these special animals the praise (and possibly treats) they deserve, and support reputable organizations training animals in a responsible manner.
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