Therapy Dogs Can Help Children Overcome Their Fears

hand, woman, dog, paw, fur

Whether best friends, loyal companions or members of our family, dogs quickly get to hold a special place in our hearts. This is why therapy dogs are so effective in helping with emotional arousal, especially in children.

Dogs love patterns, structure, repetition, and sequences, which is what children often need and react well to when upset and under stress. Although getting a therapy dog is not the single solution to facing emotional struggles, there are ways in which befriending a furry friend can help your child gain more self-confidence and learn how to openly explore the world.

What is a therapy dog?

The term “therapy” may sound too medical, but it actually doesn’t mean anything more than dogs who use their social instincts and learned social skills to bring people emotional benefits and sensory intervention. A therapy dog may be assigned to children with more severe disorders, such as ASD, or simply to children who are struggling with common social or communication problems.

The role of therapy dogs is to react and respond to people and their environment, under the guidance and direction of their owner. A health care professional who uses a therapy dog in treatment may be viewed as less threatening, potentially increasing the connection between the client and professional.

Therapy dogs can help children deal with emotional outbursts

Dealing with somewhat hysterical moments of your child is part of every upbringing. Young children (and later teenagers) often express their frustration, fears and insecurities through tantrums, meltdowns and emotional outbursts. It’s a healthy way of dealing with anxiety, however, a specifically trained dog maybe able to assist by providing comfort and safety, or just simply by keeping them company.

The dog is trained to react to restlessness, agitation and anxiety by licking or leaning on the child, showing affection and soothing strong emotional reactions. Therapy dogs are also taught to lie on the child and apply deep pressure to reduce stress and self-stimulating behaviors. Engaging in play or caressing a dog may shift the child’s focus and divert attention away from negative behavior.

A healthy baby is a happy baby

Whether you get a therapy, service or adopt a companion dog, if raised with babies and young children they can profoundly change and strengthen their immune system for the better. Babies who grow up in homes with a pet are less likely to get sick than children who live pet-free.

Exposure to (normal and healthy) animal bacteria and microbes from the earliest age could stimulate babies’ still-developing immune systems and train them early to fend off assaults from common allergens, bugs and infections.

This means that it’s actually good introducing a dog to a small child and apart from emotional support and loyalty, a dog will improve your kid’s overall health. Studies show that regular daily exposure to pets like dogs lower the chance of developing respiratory problems and infections, such as asthma. Ear infections, colds, allergies are also less likely to bother your child if he or she spends time around dogs.

A dog’s love is unconditional and infinite. Their ability to bond quickly plays a crucial role in befriending a child that struggles emotionally. A trustworthy, devoted relationship helps children open up, gain self-esteem and fill the void or feelings of loneliness without judgement. It doesn’t have to be a therapy dog at all, every pooch can be affectionate and social if treated well, so simply adopting or getting a family dog may change your child’s life for good.

David Barnes is a sports enthusiast who loves spending time with his kids, learning to cook new meals, writing for Totally Goldens, and enjoying a healthy lifestyle. Most of all, he enjoys the fresh air in the sunrise.

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