September is Therapy Dog Awareness Month — a chance to recognise these wonderful animals and the support they provide to individuals living with disability.
Not just cute and cuddly, therapy dogs play a vital role in providing comfort, companionship and emotional support.
“We’ve had many dogs visit our residents’ homes and hubs over the years, both official therapy dogs as well as pets, and we’ve seen first hand how they can encourage communication and social skills,” says Practice Leader, Kevin. “It’s a way to create shared experience and conversation.”
Studies show that being around a pet is scientifically proven to have both physical and mental health benefits across the board. Everything from improved sleep, to a reduction in anxiety and depression, improved motivation and mood, and bringing families and communities closer together.
Keen to meet some furry friends, groups from Civic’s Sutherland Hub take regular trips out to the dog parks around the local area, with Sydney Park being a firm favourite. Bentley the Frenchie visits the Hinkler Hub every week in an unofficial capacity, while Civic clients like Angie are reaping the benefits from animal assisted therapy sessions with Assistance Dogs Australia as part of her own personal health goals.
“Angie loves her sessions with Aster the chocolate Labrador,” says support worker Jennifer. “Some activities include walking, grooming, road safety, learning how to put a jacket and leash on, communicating using words such as ‘find’, ‘stop’ and ‘let’s go’. Angie is looking forward to her next session and has already shown improvements with her emotional and sensory regulation as well as a boost in self-confidence and communication skills.”
Throughout the month of September, organisations who raise and train therapy dogs will be holding events to demonstrate their role, increasing cognitive abilities, speech and memory function and improved health and wellbeing. Click here to find out more.