Canine therapy is an auxiliary rehabilitation method involving the use of specially trained dogs. Contact with dogs has a positive influence on various areas of development for people of all age categories, in particular the psychomotor development of both healthy people and those with special needs.
At the Zahrádka Primary School, canine therapy takes place twice a week and has been specially adapted to the pupils’ individual needs, with a focus on positioning and on active exercises with the dog. Dogs have a positive impact on cognitive areas that process information taken in by the senses. We also develop physical areas – i.e., fine and gross motor skills. Dogs motivate the pupils’ speech as well. This form of therapy also influences the child’s mental well-being.
We use positioning with dogs for various children, not just those with spasms. Positioning involves close interaction between the dog and the person. The child can lie on the dog, place its arms or legs on the animal, and sense its breathing and warmth. The dog’s body warmth and the client’s mental relaxation help to warm and slowly relax spastic muscles. Positioning is best applied after talking with the physical therapist. The dogs impart a sense of calmness, relaxation and warming. Their body temperature is one degree Celsius warmer than ours, which is very beneficial for clients who have circulatory problems in a particular part of their body. The therapy promotes a deep and pleasant sense of relaxation and release, thus helping to prepare the client for further activities (such as eating, rehabilitation exercises, washing), which can go much smoother as a result.
Effects of proper positioning:
produces a pleasant feeling
calming effects (especially for hyperactive individuals)
warms the body (especially the limbs)
promotes expressiveness through facial expressions
improves and intensifies eye contact
deepens breathing (synchronization with dog) and thus promotes circulation
the child more easily accepts positions that it would otherwise refuse
Active exercises with the dog:
Especially among children with autism spectrum disorders, our canine therapy focuses on active exercises with the dog. The specific activities are usually based on the structured teaching methods that the students work with in their home classroom. The canine therapy lesson is usually divided into three main section:
greeting the dog and therapist, establishing contact, free play
direct work with the dog – set of structured exercises aimed primarily at training fine and gross motor skills and cognitive abilities: throwing objects for the dog to fetch, picking various objects from the dog’s body, brushing the dog, crawling over the dog, walking the dog on a leash, differentiating shapes and colors, counting
positioning, relaxation – release, listening to relaxation music
The primary aim of these sessions is to try to establish contact with the dog, to experience pleasant sensations, and to create an environment in which the client can relax and feel secure. No less important is the educational process, the pupil’s motivation to engage in targeted activities, and the attempt at linking together and supporting activities from the school environment.