If you already have a pet, then you will know what joy and love they bring to your life. And there is science behind this that confirms just how good they really are both mentally and physically.
In 2018, Delta Society launched the inaugural Therapy Dog Awareness month which now appears in the Department of Health Calendar of Events for the month of September. Every week Deltas amazing volunteers and their therapy dogs bring joy to the lives of those who need it the most.
What is a Therapy Dog?
The role of a therapy dog is to react and respond to people and their environment, under the guidance and direction of their owners. A therapy dog is trained to alleviate the effect of mental health disorders on those whose lives are often compromised by anxiety or fear.
Benefits of a Therapy Dog
Therapy Dogs can improve a person’s quality of life by providing a sense of community and wellbeing, they encourage routine and commitment. They also provide a nonjudgmental friendship which can have the following benefits:
- Improve mood
- Reduce feelings of stress and anxiety
- Reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Reduce feelings of sadness and depression
- Increase mental stimulation and reduce feelings of boredom
- Increase self-esteem
- Increase willingness to participate in interactions and activities
- Shifting a client’s focus and improving their outlook on life
Therapy Dogs in Schools
There a currently only a handful of schools in Australia using support dogs. Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA) have 5 trained dogs, 3 in New South Wales, 1 in Queensland, and 1 in WA. It takes approximately two years to train a dog at the cost of around $27,000. The dogs are trained to help with physical disabilities and they provide practical assistance, like opening doors. They are also trained to assistant with children with learning difficulties, Autism, and PTSD.
An educational Support Dog can be a fantastic addition to any learning environment, and can provide support to students in numerous ways, including emotional, recognising signs of anxiety, helping improve concentration and communication.
The first school to receive an educational support dog from ADA was Lake Illawarra High School in NSW. Since the dogs arrival, the attendance at the school has improved, children have learned how to take responsibility of owning a pet, by assisting in grooming and toileting, and they are able to cuddle and show emotions towards the dog which some children can’t do with other adults or peers.
If you are interested in an educational support dog for your school, the program requires onsite training at the Sydney national training school. The cost of travel and accommodation are not covered however the training itself is free. The dog is provided free of charge however the school/carer is responsible the for ongoing costs. ADA has requirements that must be met before an application will be accepted. More information can be found here: https://www.assistancedogs.org.au/services/facility-dog/
Who can apply for a Therapy Dog?
Training therapy dogs is complicated and costly. Only certain disability criteria will qualify to receive a therapy dog. If you think you may be eligible for this assistance you can find out how by visiting https://www.assistancedogs.org.au for more information. ConnectAbility can help with all aspects of NDIS funding, please contact one of our team for more information.
How to volunteer with Delta Society
If you would like to volunteer with Delta Therapy Dog team here are the keys points you should think about.
- A dog who is over 18 months and under 10 years old with a good and sociable temperament.
- A volunteer who enjoys talking with people of different backgrounds about their dog and who has an hour or two to spare every week.
- A dog and volunteer who enjoy spending time together and with others.
- A volunteer who is interested in giving back to their local community.
If this sounds like something you and your dog would like to do together then follow this link to find out more: Expressions of interest.
Paws for Thought!
These faithful companions can help us recover from stressful life events; dogs have been known to reduce depression by creating a happy environment. Delta Society helps over 20,000 Australians each week. Please contact ConnectAbility, Delta Society, or Guide dogs if you feel like you could benefit from meeting one of these amazing animals.