Therapy Dogs Sniff Out Underlying Issues

Animal-assisted therapy is used in a myriad of different fields and industries to help people cope with different issues either physical or mental due to reported benefits:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Self-empowerment
  • Releases calming endorphins

It is common to see therapy dogs with children, at retirement homes, and mental health units.

A study was conducted to examine the effect therapy dogs have on substance abuse patients due to the proven benefits of working with a therapy dog.

The study consisted of 56 clients (46 male, 10 female) in the rehabilitation program for drug and alcohol addiction with the examination lasted a total of 12-weeks. And there was a total of three dogs: Rose (pit bull/greyhound mix), Silk (greyhound), and Alexis (pit bull).

All of the dogs were rescued and rehabilitated to be service dogs.

Participants would interact with the service dogs thorough feeding, playing, and petting the dogs.

When the patients came to the area to interact with the rescue dogs, 19% reported their experience with violence. It appeared that when, Rosie, the pit bull-greyhound mix rescue was present, it influenced disclosure by some of the patients.

Further disclosure was given from the in-patients and ultimately revealed more of their personal history which included violence, loss, self-esteem, family dynamics, and consequences of drug and alcohol use.

Participants reported that the experiment was an enjoyable experience, who could blame them, and that it opened a channel for patients to reveal more about their personal histories and experience with drugs and alcohol.

This allowed for therapists to obtain a better understanding of the patients and reveal more about the patients:

  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • Thoughts
  • Emotional and behavioral patterns

Having this insight about the patients allows the therapist to effectively guide and educate the patients toward healthier habits and making healthier decisions.