As part of National Pet Month, we are shining the light on working and companion animals. In particular, we are raising awareness of dogs in the community and the positive impact they can have on people’s health and well-being.
What is a community dog?
Unlike assistance dogs, who are trained to meet the needs of a specific individual, community dogs work under the control of an experienced handler in a range of environments. Therapy dogs, as they are often referred, can be any breed and vary in size and temperament.
Dogs in Schools
The benefits of community dogs have been widely documented, particularly in children with special educational needs. Experienced volunteers work alongside teachers to help students achieve their goals through a range of structured activities, which can lead to improvements in educational, emotional or physical wellbeing. It is hoped that with the help and comfort of a four-legged friend, children will have increased confidence and that improvements will remain long after the weekly sessions have ended.
Pets as Therapy have introduced the ‘Read2Dogs’ scheme, which aims to help improve literacy levels in children who find reading difficult. Sessions take place over prolonged period of time and children are encouraged to read to the dog, with which they develop a close bond. The dogs offer comfort, help create a secure environment and can also be used as a learning tool.
Dogs in care homes and hospitals
Community dogs are able to provide a holistic approach to care within hospitals and residential homes. Patients often become increasingly animated during therapy dog visits as well as experiencing reduced feelings of loneliness.
Innovative animal assisted intervention schemes have been introduced to help specific groups, including individuals suffering from dementia and spinal injuries. Regular sessions with community dogs can help increase patient’s mobility and levels exercise, which helps with their rehabilitation.
How can I get involved?