Our therapy dog program is for pet dogs who will work within a specific organisation where either their owner or a member of their immediate family works or volunteers. Our therapy dog program is not like common therapy dog work. Our therapy dogs are trained to provide up to 5 specialist therapy dog programs within the organisation to support young people with additonal needs, who identify as LGBTQ+ or are recovering from trauma such as mainstream, PRU and special needs schools, non profit organisations, hospitals, children centres, medical centres, youth groups and paliative care providers.
Our organisation based therapy dogs & handler are trained to provide up to 5 specialist therapy programs. Each program consists of 6, 1 hour sessions which can each be split in two if required to provide 12, 30minute sessions. Each therapy program has specific aims and different programs will be more suitable for certain settings than others. The 5 programs are:
How can a therapy dog be beneficial for our organisation?
Having a therapy dog working within an organisation can be a huge benefit for staff and for people accessing the service. There is siginificant evidence that just by being in the room & by being stroked therapy dogs can help lower feelings of anxiety, heart rate, lower blood pressure, increase oxyctocin release, decrease patient rating of physical pain and so much more. We take it a step up from that through the provision of our 5 specialist therapy programs each of which aims to promote a specific area of development or experience. While we can talk numbers and studies and while ofcourse evidence is important nothing quite beats withnessing that human dog interaction when it goes perfectly. Through my many months working with therapy dogs i've seen the most beautiful moments occur thanks to a therapy dog including children who are normally guarded and present as problematic opening up about their struggles and allowing themselves to lower their defences and show their sadness. I've greatly enjoyed watching children reach physical milestones thanks to the motivation of their therapy dog and seen a child who has a life changing injury from a dog attack as a baby approaching calmly and willingly to stroke a therapy dog, each time increasing their confidence. Dogs are amazing facilitators for improvement and openness.
We pride ourselves on being completely transparent about the level of work involved in having an organisation based therapy dog. While, ofcourse, therapy dog can have a profound positive benefit within an organisation there are some other things you need to be aware of when deciding of a therapy dog is right for your organisation.
1) Practical work load - The dog works for you, but you work for the dog. The owner & handler will need to be alocated time throughout the day to take the dog for 5 minute comfort breaks at a minimum of every 3 hours and their timetable needs to allow for this. The final assessment time will need to come out of the owners work time. A responsible adult will always need to be with the dog, even on their downtime. If the dog moults it will mean cleaning takes longer.
2) Training & assessment time - The quickest your dog & handler can go through the whole training and assessment process is about 15 hours. It's good that we assess and train our therapy dog partnerships so well but that time needs to be alocated from somewhere. Is the therapy handler willing to do the online training in their own time?
3) Cost - being a working therapy dog does increase the costs. The therapy dog will need vet & public liability insurance for working. Who will cover these costs? Will your current organisation insurers be willing to cover the therapy dog? A seperate dog policy will cost upwards of £120 per year, dog owners always have insurance but the insurance for therapy work is higher. For some of the therapy programs basic, low cost equipment (costing around £10) that needs to be budgetted for.
4) Liability - As with any work involving dogs their is a slightly increased risk of injury caused by the dog. We do everything in our power to minimise this including training our handlers to recognise signs of anxiety or frustration, high levels of training and assessments, our introducing therapy dog presentation for all young people who will come into contact with the dog, risk assessments, consent forms etc etc. We do our very best to minimise any risk but a small risk is still there (but lets remember that there's also a risk of falling downstairs etc, nothing is without risk).