June 23, 2015

Therapy pets and therapy dogs in particular can have a positive and significant impact on many individuals, including those with developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, depression, and anxiety. According to Katcher, Friedmann, Beck & Lynch (1983), evidence supports the idea that the presence of companion animals can reduce stress.  Physiological measures such as a reduction in heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and other observable signs of anxiety levels show that interacting with a dog can moderate and reduce stress.  Furthermore, in the review of literature completed by Friedmann, Thomas, and Eddy (2000), the researchers found that the presence of calm, attentive dogs can reduce stress responses more than the presence of an adult and even more than the presence of a supportive friend when children were reading aloud or having a routine medical exam.  There is ample research to support the use of therapy pets and particularly dogs to reduce anxiety, stress and encourage sharing (conversations, reading aloud) from kids and adults.

At Therapeutic Approach to Growth (TAG, Inc.), a certified therapy dog is available to support the needs of a variety of clients. Nala received her therapy dog training alongside her handler Kathryn Bovino. Together, the pair trained extensively while attending several therapy dog classes and participating in supervised visits to individuals in a variety of therapeutic environments.  As a result, Nala and Kathryn attained their certification as a therapy dog team through Love on a Leash in April 2014. The team has experience working together providing therapy in a variety of settings such as nursing homes, veteran’s facilities, reading programs, as well as at the TAG office with many clients.

Many individuals have benefited from Nala’s support and therapeutic approach. One example of success took place with one little boy through eight sessions with the therapy dog team.  After working with his mom at home and in the office with the team, he was able to reduce his significant fear of the dog.  During the first session, the boy remained a total of 20 feet away from the dog and was only able to look at her and watch Kathryn interact with her.  With his mom’s support at home (working on social stories, looking at books, talking about dogs, looking at pictures of Nala, etc.), he was able to take on more responsibility in reducing his fear and getting closer to the dog during each session.  During the final session, he was able to brush and pet her, sit next to her and talk to her!  He was even able to walk with her while he held the leash with Kathryn.  Other examples of how Nala has worked with clients at TAG include times when her presence encouraged the client to participate in more conversation and sharing about himself, as well as when Nala participated in a peer match where both kids offered their toys to share, included her in their play and conversation, while sharing with each other about what she was doing and how cute she was.  Nala always brings a smile to everyone she meets and it is clear that the effects of interacting with a therapy dog are evident every day at TAG!

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about how utilizing a therapy dog may help you or your child, please contact TAG at admin@tagforgrowth.com or 858 689-2027