• The Counseling Initiative

Hard at Work or Hardly Working?

Did you know, at Yale University's library they "rent out dogs" to help student relax and find happiness? Yep, you read that correctly. Just like renting out a book, a student can request to rent one of the several on campus therapy dogs to take for walks or just have a snuggle.

The fact is, it has been scientifically proven that dogs have several positive effects on both the human body and mind - so its no surprise that many therapists are starting to incorporate them into their practices.

The rise of animal therapy is backed by increasingly serious science showing that social support–a proven antidote to anxiety and loneliness–can come on four legs, not just two. Animals of many types can help calm stress, fear and anxiety in young children, the elderly and everyone in between.

Not sure what to expect from a therapy dog? Here's a few tips in case you interact with one:

1) They are VERY friendly - like, "give me your face so i can lick it off" friendly

2) They love to snuggle or play - whichever you prefer

3) Can sense shifting emotions and respond appropriately

We can't speak for all therapy dogs working in counseling offices - but typically what we like to see in our dogs is that they can be adaptable and adjust to different client needs (much like we do). This is a much larger feat than i believe people give them credit for. In any given day, 1 of our therapy dogs has to go from high intensity outside play with a younger client directly back to laying on the feet of an anxious other and back again (up to 12 times per day). This doesn't even count the emotional shift in sessions - which can range from calmness at the beginning to high anxiety back to calm all in a 45 minute window.

The dog simply can't keep trying to play fetch if you move from a calm state to an anxious state...he has to adapt...he has to "feel" the mood change and he then has to alter his course of action so he can continue to support rather than hinder.

And, since we can't simply let the dog know how to behave, we have to train them to be "cognizant" and to use their extra senses to do a personal evaluation of people.

So, while I'm sure our boys look like they are living the life of luxury...they have full time jobs and Mom's that are consistently pushing them to be their very best...but hey, any job that gets paid in belly scratches is ok in our book.

Ronik (Siberian Husky)       Bro (Newfoundland)