Animals used in AAT are many times the personal pets of the professional using them in practice. Becket is a Great Dane and was born on April 1, 2011. As is the reputation of his breed, he truly is a "Gentle Giant". Great Danes are known to be charming and affectionate, playful and patient with children. They love everyone and need to be around people. The Great Dane does not bark much and it is reliable, trustworthy, dependable, courageous and loyal.
What is AAT?
AAT, as defined by Pet Partners (formerly, Delta Society), is "a goal-directed intervention directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise, and within the scope of practice of his/her profession. AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning." The animals are present to help facilitate progress toward each client's goals.
What are the benefits of using animals in therapy?
Research shows as demonstrated by numerous studies, that animals have an unbelievable impact on the mental, physical, social and emotional functioning of people of all ages and all different kinds of difficulties. Animals are accepting, non-threatening, and non-judgmental. Studies have shown that interacting with an animal can do just some of the following:
Improve social skills as clients can practice these skills with an animal in therapy and can apply them in the "real world".
Model a healthy relationship as clients can see the trust demonstrated between the animal and another human being and the reciprocal respect and appreciation that can be developed with another.
Decrease stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and aldosterone and increase in "health inducing and social inducing" hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins after 20 minutes with a therapy dog.
Lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Provide a purely nonjudgmental space for people to work out their difficulties.
Decrease feelings of depression, isolation, and alienation
Increased focus and attention
Improve problem solving skills
Improve attachment skills
Help improve healthy boundaries
Decrease physical and emotional pain
Increase motivation to improve
Increase compliance in treatment
Becket's Qualifications and Certifications
Becket began training at 4 months old. Becket and I have passed the Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc. (B&B) Therapy Dog Certification Test and have been a registered therapy dog team with them since 12/6/12. On the weekends and during off time we volunteer as a therapy dog team with B&B and we visit hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and schools, bringing comfort and joy to people of all ages and in all stages of life. Becket is also an American Kennel Club certified Canine Good Citizen and has also earned his American Kennel Club Therapy Dog Title having provided more than 50 therapy dog volunteer visits in his first year as a certified therapy dog. Becket receives ongoing training and socialization, is current on recommended vaccinations, and was screened by his vet prior to beginning his work as a therapy dog.
What is therapy like with Becket?
Sometimes a therapy session with Becket will be just like any other session, only Becket will be present in the room. Often, just the presence of an animal is helpful in the therapy process and he doesn't need to "do" anything special in order to add to the experience of therapy. Other times I will use specific interventions and strategies where the client and Becket will interact with each other in order to work toward a specific treatment goal.