Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

Why Robyn uses Therapy Dogs?

"I am very fortunate to have two amazing female dogs, Bella and Teddy, in my practice who are both gentle and affectionate Groodles that are trained therapy dogs.  I have experienced the benefits that therapy dogs can offer to many clients, and especially to children who may be a little hesitant arriving to their first session.  I include therapy dogs as part of my service to optimise engagement and to promote a friendly and more relaxed experience.

I incorporate the dogs into sessions as little or as much as may be wanted or useful.  I love seeing the joy and the relationship that develops between clients with both Bella and Teddy.  As you will have seen, my clinic name and logo is based around the theme of Bella and Teddy.  I do hope you enjoy meeting them also and I look forward to sharing them with you."  

Check out our ‘PAWS Animal Crew’ page with photos of Bella and Teddy and their best mates Cloud and Skye, the two clinic cats! 

- Robyn


The Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

The thought of attending psychology sessions can potentially be a bit daunting for adults, children and any parents of children who will visit a psychologist. Incorporating therapy dogs facilitate a welcoming and calming environment. They are a wonderful way to engage children in sessions and to maximise the effectiveness of treatment outcomes. The clinic also has a large outdoor area that can be utilised for those clients who wish to enjoy playing and interacting with the dogs in an outdoor setting. The practice of using animals in sessions is referred to as Animal Assisted Therapy and is a well established evidence-based practice.


Teddy & Bella Therapy Dogs

The role of therapy dogs is to react and respond to people and their environment, under the guidance and direction of their owner who is usually the trained handler of the therapy dog (e.g., Robyn). Robyn has two dogs that she owns and works with who are both a breed of Groodle (Groodles are bred from a Golden Retriever and a Poodle). Groodles are regarded as one of the best breeds for a therapy dog and Robyn chose them intentionally for this reason. Bella is 6 years old and is non hair shedding and hypoallergenic. Teddy is 5 years old, a little larger than Bella, looks almost identical to a Golden retriever and does shed a little bit of fur, but not the same amount as a full breed Golden Retriever. Both dogs are medium sized dogs.

Therapy dogs can provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals other than their owners. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are encouraged to interact with a variety of people and patting the pooches is highly encouraged! They are trained to be obedient, are very gentle with children, respond to a range of instructions and withstand noise or boisterous movements.

The human-animal bond that occurs between an individual and a therapy dog can illicit many positive outcomes, notably, increasing the attachment response that triggers the hormone oxytocin, which increases trust in humans. In addition, research has shown therapy dogs can help reduce stress. Most children respond really well to having a therapy dog in sessions and tend to feel more comfortable opening up and engaging in therapy sessions, as well as enjoying their time spent with the dog, especially if they are feeling upset in any way. Their unconditional love, affection and focus on the child is rewarding to watch and it is so positive to see withdrawn children begin to relax and enjoy being with the dog. For those children who have a fear of dogs, we also provide dog phobia sessions and have had many successful outcomes doing this.

Animal Assisted Therapy benefits can include:

  • Lower Anxiety & Increases Relaxation
    • Research shows therapy dogs can reduce stress physiologically (cortisol levels)
    • The simple act of petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response.
  • Increase attachment responses that trigger oxytocin – a hormone that increases trust in humans.
  • Humans interacting with animals have found that petting the animal promoted the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin- all these hormones that can play a part in elevating moods.

Specific AAT Benefits and Applications for Clients with ADHD

There is a growing body of evidence indicating that the opportunity to interact with therapy animals can help motivate individuals to comply with the therapeutic process, productively engage with their therapist, and retain their motivation to participate in therapy overtime (Fine, 2010; Mallon, Ross, Ross, & Klee, 2010).

Given the important role of emotion in learning, integrating animals into traditional psychosocial treatments for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) could provoke an emotional response beneficial to learning; this, in turn, could increase the effects of treatment, particularly on the increase of adaptive behaviours. For example, behavioural treatment goals for children with ADHD often include promoting empathy and perspective taking, as these social skills are typically underdeveloped in children with ADHD.

Regular interactions with therapeutically trained dogs might impact these processes by stimulating an emotional response and activating attentional networks during more traditional cognitive-behavioural and behaviour modification interventions, increasing the learning that takes place during therapy. Therefore, introducing animals into therapy could act as a catalyst for social learning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the therapy dogs add to my fee’s?

No.  I have purposely chosen not to charge additional session fees for the use of my therapy dogs in sessions because I believe that the therapeutic benefits should be available to all.

Did the dogs receive any therapy specific training?

Yes. Both dogs have been trained with Lead the Way methodology.  This training uses verbal commands and tonal influences.  This training ensures that the dogs are well behaved, responsive to commands and can cope with active and noisy situations.  Both dogs are extremely gentle, affectionate and playful as well as being best mates.

Are dogs hygienic?

Bella and Teddy are regularly washed and groomed.  In fact, both dogs are fortunate to receive frequent brushing from many clients during their sessions so are very well presented.  A bathroom and hand sanitiser products are available for those who wish to use these.

Are the dogs routinely used in each session?

The dogs are available for all sessions but your choice of dog may not be available at all times.  You can also choose not to have the dog in sessions if you prefer.  The dog can be incorporated in sessions as much or as little as you feel comfortable with.

Can I play with the dogs?

Yes, both dogs love to fetch and all games and interactions with the dogs are encouraged where appropriate to the session.

Do you have any other animals?

Yes.  The clinic also has 2 cats named Cloud and Skye.  Whilst Cloud is a family pet and loves to greet and welcome clients, Skye is a ragdoll breed who has intentionally been introduced as a kitten to clients.  The ragdoll breed of cat will often enjoy cuddles more than some other breeds may.  Skye is also less likely to shed as much as most other cat breeds and she loves playing with toys.  

Like Cloud, Skye also loves and enjoys the company of Bella and Teddy. Cloud is very curious and will often come to meet you and is usually very happy to have a pat, but is not so keen on being picked up. She will sometimes lie down to invite you to give her a gentle pat and can usually be found enjoying a warm spot outside.   

Do you treat dog phobia?

Yes.  Both Bella and Teddy have been successfully used to help children and adults who have been dog phobic.  A gradual exposure methodology is used.

Do you have Insurance for your dogs?

Yes.  I have Insurance that covers both dogs as well as professional Indemnity and public liability.