Most people think dogs are the only service animals used by therapists. However, more and more animals are now used alongside your canine friend.
We know that pets pose various benefits. Trained or not, they are there to show their support and bring comfort to the lives of many people. They are there to provide companionship for owners while they take necessary actions for counseling and medical emergencies. Because of the increasing demand for animal-assisted therapy, therapists have opted to add other animals to the list.
Dogs are the most used and popular service animals today. They are known for their ability to comfort people, bring affection, and accompany people in need in confined living situations. They are also seen in various environments such as the grocery store, the mall, or even just down the street.
Most individuals find the desire to pet a service dog when they see one. Do not worry; it’s pretty safe to do so. But in case you are hesitant to interact with them, you may opt to look for their “I am friendly! Ask my handler if you can pet me” patches.
There are also three types of therapy dogs:
- Facility Therapy Dogs – These dogs are usually stationed in nursing homes to accompany patients with Alzheimer’s disease (or any other mental disability connected to getting confused or lost).
- Therapeutic Visitation Dogs – Therapeutic visitation dogs are household pets who veer away from the comforts of their homes to visit nursing homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation facilities. Then, they go back to their owners after doing so.
- Assisted Therapy Dogs – These special dogs are there to help individuals with their physical problems. Examples include regaining motor control, addressing the motion in the limbs, and improving hand-eye coordination.
Believe it or not, there are still people who are intimidated or terrified by dogs. Because of that, these clients decide to hire service cats instead. Most therapists would say cats are one of the hardest animals to train; but when they get the hang of it, they are capable of accomplishing a wide range of tasks that not all animals can do.
These friendly felines are most common in nursing homes. They are seen wandering around the corridors, coming in and out of the patients’ rooms, or on the laps of the elderlies who have dementia.
Equine therapy is the most popular type of treatment for individuals experiencing disruptive thoughts and behaviors. Taking care of a large animal, such as a horse, requires your full attention. Hence, it helps you get out of your abnormal behaviors (abuse, anger, emotional, etc.).
Studies show that equine therapy is scientifically proven to help enhance a person’s social skills, lower blood pressure, aid in anger management problems, increase confidence, and ease impatience and anxiety. Although this practice takes a lot of effort, it will most likely be beneficial in the end.
Therapists are now starting to train small pets like hamsters, little turtles, rabbits, and guinea pigs to serve as emotional support animals (ESA). Just like dogs, they offer companionship, calmness, and comfort to the patients. These small animals also provide emotional support and aid in the improvement of motor skills.
Most patients opt to take care of these smaller pets since they are easier to maintain than their canine co-workers.
Birds, especially parrots, make great candidates for assistive therapy. For example, parrots are known to be engaging and interactive with their owners; hence, they often keep their minds occupied. They are also proven to show high levels of empathy.
Some therapists also assign abused or injured birds to their patients, so they have something to take care of. Studies say that the birds’ situations contribute to the ease of symptoms of those individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Reptiles are new to therapy animal occupation. London was the first country to use them to help those people struggling with substance abuse, depression, and eating disorders. What makes this approach unique is the patients always feel a sense of fulfillment and surge of confidence, since caring for reptiles is uncommon. They think that they can finally succeed in this world; hence, boosting their image about themselves.
Trained service animals conduct special programs to address a variety of physical and mental conditions. Animals are the better choice since they quickly respond to love and affection through consistent training and exposure to people. At the same time, patients are more comfortable to be themselves around these animals instead of pouring their attention to other humans.