Using pets as therapy and well-being animals has been an approach for many years.
Research has concluded that dogs are the most commonly used therapy animals. Professor Cotton adds that the popularity of therapy dogs is particularly prominent in relation to concerns surrounding mental health.
Nicola Futeran, an Australian student studying assistance dogs as a part of her Occupational Therapy honours thesis, acknowledged that there is a ‘big umbrella of animal-assisted interventions’. Under this umbrella is where the branches of animal therapy and animal assistance are found.
Nicola reminds us that animal therapy is not quite the same as assistance dogs.
Differentiating factors between these two (2) initiatives include animal therapy using ’an animal which is trained to work with a multitude of people with disabilities, which is session-based’. For example, ‘one dog might be trained for kids with autism’, for the elderly or for people living with dementia.
On the other hand, assistance dogs are specifically trained to be partnered with one person with a disability, to provide them with 24/7 support.
Despite the prominent differences between these animal assisted interventions, parallels can still be drawn. Nicola addressed that throughout her research, she had concluded that assistance dogs have a wide range of areas which they could positively impact, including everyday duties and social relations.
In broad terms, assistance dogs, akin to animal therapy in aged care, help individuals deal with the psychological demands of everyday life.
Stay tuned for more coming from our fluffiest series . . . The Doggo Series.