Therapy Dogs

Our therapy dog program is for pet dogs who will work with their owners work place to support young people with additonal needs, who identify as LGBTQ+ or  are recovering from trauma. The proffessional who owns the therapy can dog can either work within a single setting (such as mainstream or specialist school, hospital, hospice, charity or any other setting which supports young people as part of their client base) or be a proffessional who works across multiple settings or regularly changing clients (such as occupational therapist, physiotherapist, speech and language therapist or community psychiatric nurse). 

 

Unlike most other therapy dog programs, our therapy dogs are owned by the therapy dog handler but are trained to run specialised canine assisted activity programs alongside usual therapy dog services (reading to the dog, stroking etc). Therapy dog teams are trained to run at least one of the 6 specialist programs avalible. These are:

  • UNITE - our unite program is all about bringing young people together, developing team work and leaderships skills as well as compassion for different abilities  and to empower young people to celebrate diversity. 
  • FLOURISH - flourish is our nurturing program designed to support young people with social, emotional, behaviour issues or who are recovering from trauma. The activities are focused on developing trust, building empathy and learning to express and connect with emotions. 
  • JOY - Joy is a program whose sole aim is to have fun! 
  • PROGRESS - A program focusing on promoting physical development 
  • EDUCATE - A program focusing promoting literacy and numeracy skills
  • SENSORY - A program packed with sensory exercises to promote regulation & sensory exploration.

 

What our current therapy dog clients have to say:

"The Pawsitive Squad Therapy dog programme has changed mine and my schools life. That is a huge statement to make but without Pawsitive squad and without Heathers guidance we would not be where we are with Bella today. Before March I had very little knowledge on therapy dogs in schools but Heather has supported and guided us since day one. She has given myself confidence to be a handler and pushed us both to be the best we can be. I would highly recommend the programme, it is very thorough and well thought through, and also very easy to follow. Heather is so knowledgeable and offers support whenever it is needed. Heather has helped up overcome lots of hurdles with this knowledge and the support of the programme." - Ellie Blessed, CP Riverside School (an alternative education school for 13 to 16 year olds).

 

"As an Occupational Therapist I had been looking for some time to find a suitable company to train my own dog into a Therapy Dog to use within my work. Having searched around, most courses available either required me to use their own trained dog or could I could train in traditional therapy dog where patients would purely stroke the animal. I wanted training that would mean my dog could be incorporated into sessions that I already run to aid engagement and participation for those more vulnerable clients that struggle. I was recommended Heather at Pawsitive Squad by a local lady and looked into her services further.

Although pawsitive squad is not based near to my home address, it provides the luxury of offering sessions on online via zoom. This makes it easier to fit into an already busy diary and means I can practice in-between sessions at my own pace.

I have recently started the Nourish module. This is perfect for the work I am already doing with children that struggle with their sense of self and regulation. The module is easily adaptable to make it suitable for many aims or client goals and can easily be adapted to suit a variety of situations once you and the dog have learnt the skills needed.

In addition to the live sessions , I have been able to access face to face assessments and feedback to help me improve what I am doing and direct me when necessary. There is an online system to provide feedback following written assessments and this is all easily accessible. Furthermore, Heather is approachable and willing to answer and support with a variety of situations whenever needed between sessions. Highly recommend the Therapy Dog programme to anyone wanted that special slant on the services their Dog can provide." - Rachael, Blossom Children's Occupational Therapy Ltd.

 

"As an occupational therapist working with a variety of different people, I have known the benefit that dogs bring to therapy. I wanted to use my own dog as part of my therapy offer. I searched everywhere for a training company that was able to train me and my dog however felt frustrated by the closed doors and lack of understanding of what I was trying to achieve. Most training programmes were too prescriptive and offered no flexibility of how I would use my dog in therapy. This was until I found Pawsitive Squad. I have been able to be trained by a professional who not only understands what I'm trying to achieve but also has a unique perspective being both a user and trainer of therapy dogs. Heather has been able to take us through the initial mandatory modules and also provide valuable advice on the process. Im looking forward to engaging with the next therapy modules." - Moyna, Moyna Talcer Ltd.

 

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 6 specialist therapy programs each of which aims to promote a specific area of development or experience. There is now a wide range of evidence supporting the use of therapy dogs and the benefits they can provide including lowering blood pressure, improving depression. For a basic list of research studies about therapy animals please click here.

 

Considerations

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).