There has been a new addition to the team here at ACT Group: Matilda the Therapy Dog (although strictly speaking, we should say Therapy Pup in Training)!
Matilda is a “groodle” – a golden retriever crossed with a poodle – who will be trained to be ACT Group’s official Therapy Dog in the months and years to come.
While she’s only a 5-month-old pup at the moment, Matilda comes to work each day at ACT Group. She loves being around adults and children, and The ACT Group Team and our clients love having her in the office!
Recently, Matilda went on her first mission: to assist in helping a young person get out of bed for the day.
Reports back from the field are that she was a big success, with the young person first saying, “not interested” to getting up and changed and playing fetch. Matilda returned to the office and plonked down on her bed for a sleep after a big day.
What is a therapy dog?
Therapy dogs can bring affection, comfort and happiness. They are used in many different situations, including assisting in therapy for those who have experienced childhood trauma.
Contact with a therapy dog can assist in the improvement of a person or patient’s welfare. Spending time with animals can have an incredible affect on humans and their wellbeing.
Therapy dogs can assist people who are in therapy to better engage in the treatment process.
How Therapy Dogs can assist in the healing process
There are many different ways dogs can be used in therapy. At ACT, Matilda will be helping our clients with a number therapeutic elements including the improvement of verbal and physical interactions, motor skills, mobility, balance, mental skills, anxiety, depression and trust.
Interaction with therapy dogs has been shown to lower anxiety of those being treated, and motivate participation. In therapy carried out by organisations such as the Australian Childhood Trauma Group, Matilda may be seen by clients as a friend, which will help present a safe atmosphere for them to undergo therapeutic care.
How will Matilda become a therapy dog?
There are two major components to a dog becoming a therapy dog: Socialisation, and Training.
During socialisation, Matilda will be exposed to lots of different people and animals to help her become comfortable in all social situations without acting out. This is the first part of the development process and is happening now, while Matilda is a puppy. While this is important to set up in the initial stages of her development, good social behavior will be encouraged and rewarded throughout her life.
The next stage is formal training, where Matilda will learn how to be a Therapy Dog. This is also an important stage for us, in how we manage Matilda during the animal assisted therapy process.
Matilda has started her education at The Kintala Club, where she will be learning how to behave around adults, children and animals of all kinds.
This socialisation will be followed by her formal Animal Assisted Therapy training early next year.