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22 Benefits of trained dogs for mental and physical health according to the holistic approach (AAI, AAT)
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  1. Romana Misir,
  2. Adrijana Hnojčik,
  3. Renata Fridrih,
  4. Anica Persoglia Petrac
  1. Centar za socijalnu skrb Bjelovar, Podružnica Obiteljski centar

Abstract

Over the last 30 years, there has been a rise in interventions and therapies with the help of animals (AAI, AAT). Within each of the mentioned procedures, there is an emphasis on the potential benefits of active use of dogs with both children and adults. In Croatia, there has also been a rise in various associations which do their activities with the help of animals, especially dogs. Since 2012, the Our Children Society of Sisak (Društvo Naša djeca Sisak), through the partnership with healthcare, educational and social care instititutions along with judiciary preparations is actively implementing an innovative project of direct work with trained dogs and guides according to the holistic approach (AAI, AAT) within activities with the vulnerable user groups. The neccessity of a multidisciplinary approach for the benefit of users and patients has achieved an unbreakable synergy between man and dog. Generally speaking, there are not that many healthcare institutions associated with the project using therapy dogs. For example, the pediatric clinic, and the Polyclinic for the protection of children and the young in Zagreb (Poliklinika za zaštitu djece i mladih Grada Zagreb), the Family Center Bjelovar (Obiteljski centar Bjelovar) are one of the first institutions that use trained guides and dogs according to this method, and every user and patient is happy with it. Incorporating therapy dogs in working with children results in an interaction between the child and the trained dog, guided by a trained dog expert, with the goal of improving psychophysical abilities. The activities are devised and directed towards the specific needs and difficulties depending on the individual (these can be language, emotional, and motor system difficulties). The guide dog expert is responsible for ensuring optimal conditions and a pleasant environment which are, in turn, to benefit the child so it can be able to use all of the advantages of animal-assisted therapy within the therapy process. The innovative method and research results suggest that active incorporation of trained dogs in therapies and interventions with children according to the holistic approach makes reaching certain therapy goals much more easy, and it also benefits the child in terms of developing contact and trust between the child and the experts more easily. Also, it gives the child a sense of security in the therapy setting, makes communicating unwanted emotions much easier, and it also increases confidence and empathy in children. In addition to this, it also reduces stress, anxiety and feelings of lonelyness and reduces the sensation of physical pain. Most of these effects can be explained throught the influence of the hormone oxytocin whose levels rise while petting or talking with the dogs, and since it also has an anti-stress effect it also reduces the stress levels in people. The poster will show the perspective of everyday work of guide dog experts with children, and, in more detail, it will present the work of dogs trained according to the holistic approach (AAI, AAT) with the goal of protecting the mental and physical health of children all while describing the various ways that one can work with children along with some of the challenges that the experts face each day along with some of the children’s experiences.

  • Mental health
  • children
  • oxytocin
  • dogs
  • holistic approach
  • AAI
  • AAT

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