Over the years, numerous research studies have been undertaken to validate the benefits of animal assisted activity and in particular the contribution of therapy dogs. Evidence has shown that therapy dogs can enhance children’s psychological development, improve social skills, and increase self-esteem among other benefits.
Dogs can also teach responsibility, compassion, and respect for other living things. Dogs in the classroom can be used to calm fears, relieve anxiety, and teach skills.
Here is a summary of potential benefits
• Physical – interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move, walk and stimulates the senses
• Social – a visit with a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, promotes greater self-esteem and well-being, and focused interaction with others
• Cognitive – companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem solving and game playing
• Emotional – an adorable four-legged visitor improves self-esteem, acceptance from others, and lifts mood often provoking laughter
• Environmental – a dog in a facility decreases the feeling of a sterile environment, lifts mood and this continues after visit
Research has demonstrated that therapy dogs properly managed in the school setting can not only make a measurable difference in terms of gaining various skills such as reading enhancement, but also in contributing critically to emotional and relational development. Specially-trained animals like Thunder can be used therapeutically to benefit all sorts of people suffering from emotional and behavioural disorders.
Here is a summary of the areas where Thunder will contribute significantly and help to achieve important goals in pupil development:
• Thunder spends time with pupils who have anger management issues and other anti-social conduct. Resulting in increased empathy and compassion.
• Thunder helps reduce stress and anxiety among children in social settings that are stressful. Resulting in reduced anxiety levels.
• Thunder contributes to the improvement of reading and comprehension skills of pupils having difficulties. Resulting in improved reading skills, comprehension and increase confidence and literary interest.
During regular visits to our school Thunder loves the attention; strokes, cuddles, belly rubs he receives from our pupils and staff. Thunder has impacted not only the pupils, but the staff. He loves and is loved by all who have met him. Thunder helps by being a calming presence. He is as gentle and as loving as can be! He spends some time with individual children or with larger groups and whole classes.
It is wonderful to see our children and staff enjoying their time with Thunder!