Animals and Kids: A Winning Combination

Research is continuing to reveal the benefits of animals , and the concept of Pet Therapy within the medical community is gaining respect. Studies show that pets can…

reduce stress

lower blood pressure

increase sensory stimulation

provide unconditional love

have a calming effect

When children have special needs, especially those that test our patience, having an animal can provide them with a companion that doesn’t get angry, snap, or call them names. The pet can socialize a child as much as a person can socialize a pet.

Animals are great teachers of impulse control . Impulse control can be a huge safety issue for children.

An uncooperative horse will quickly teach a child to stay calm. The instinctive yelling for some kids can shut down a dog, whereas licks learning proper interactions offers the rewards of licks, nuzzles, and wags.

Finally,a pet is not mom or dad. It doesn't get frustrated, and it's primary job is unconditional love, not discipline.

Will a goldfish do?

There are certain types of pets that rank higher than others in the world of Pet Therapy. The list is actually quite short.

Horses have the most history, having been recognized for their therapeutic value since the 1700’s. According to Rachel Fleissner, M.D., “Children and adolescents learn to ride the horses and care for them, which establish responsibility, respect, and trust.”

Visiting horses is always great, but owning a horse isn’t so practical. So we move down the list.

Lions and Tigers and Bears...and Dogs

Dogs are ranked a close second by therapists. They seem to have the benefit of being more trainable than other animals, as well as the most social. Dogs can sense moods in people, and usually respond appropriately, even in medical situations.

A child may not respond to a person, but they will respond to a dog. The trump card all dogs carry? They can actually live with their patients.

Dolphins, cats, rabbits, and birds fall to the bottom of the list. Except for the dolphin, they are not as sociable or trainable as a dog, and you have to meet them on their terms.

The dolphin… well that could be a logistical nightmare BUT there are documented benefits!

So Now What?

Deciding to bring an animal into the home is never an easy decision.

If you want to bring the animal into your home, you need to consider the personality of both the animal the household. You don’t want a dog that could bite or get easily hurt. The dog needs to be big enough to withstand hugs and playing.

The number one dog recommended by psychiatrists is a Golden Retriever.

Look for a dog that is calm, tolerant, and friendly without being too much of either one to turn children off (so calm they appear aloof) or hurt them (so friendly or having endless energy). They can be found through a breeder or the pound. Both have their merits.

At Our House

In our house the dog word is discussed a lot. When we meet with our daughters doctor, who is also the team leader, he frequently remarks that she is a poster child for a companion dog. At the moment we only have the pleasure of the dog next door.

The next dog is an important decision. We’ve had lots of strays and drop off’s; the peril of country living. This time, I want to choose a dog that meets our giant list of requirements!

We discuss size, breed, where it will live, and which one will meet the allergy criteria. But, as of yet, we haven’t been able to find the “perfect fit” for our family.

So for now we have a rabbit that hops away and a cat that hides under the bed ninety percent of the time. It is ideal? No, but it will do.

I’ve got a call in to Cesar Milan. Maybe he can whisper a dog to me….

A Happily Ever After

P.S.

Four months and many prayers later, we brought home our “perfect” dog. It was a time of many firsts.

It was the first time we’ve gotten a dog based on research. Our final choice was a golden doodle; a hybrid between a registered golden retriever and a registered standard poodle.

She is not the result of a traveling salesman! The hybrids are carefully screened and bred for predetermined traits.

It was my first experience with a breeder. Thank you, Carol McDonald, owner of Rainbows End Puppies for her patience and intuitiveness.

After explaining our situation, she told me she had the perfect dog for us. She breeds her dogs for temperament, and prides them on their gentleness! Using a reputable and qualified breeder made adopting a dog a wonderful experience.

Shaggy Maggie has turned out to be everything we ever wanted in a dog, and is truly a companion for both of our daughters.

…now, if I could only get her to stop stealing stuffed animals…