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Four Legged Friends #1 - Therapy Dogs

Friday, 15 January 2010

Pets have long been shown to benefit our health and well-being, and Pet Therapy is being used worldwide to great effect in nursing homes, long-term hospitals, institutions for mentally and physically impaired, day care centres etc. Peata describes it as the use of companion animals (dogs) to enhance the quality of life of people in Caring Institutions by visiting and interacting with them.


This form of therapy is relatively easy to provide using voluntary pet-with-owner visiting teams. Experience has shown that pets are a boost to residents and staff, and help to create a more homely atmosphere in institutions. To obtain optimum benefit, schemes should be developed and carried out with adequate thought and preparation.

The Benefits of Pet Therapy

A visiting dog:
. Helps to combat isolation, withdrawal, loneliness, boredom and depression.
. Brings companionship and aids social interaction.
. Gives non-judgemental affection
. Helps reduce stress and lower blood pressure
. Aids stimulation and motivation
. Very important for people who have had to give up a pet when entering a care home.

Why is it Relevant Today?
With the newspapers full of stories about terrible conditions in nursing homes, we wanted to focus on the people making the effort to brighten the lives of people in caring institutions.

Who Is The Guest?
Pamela Flood has worked in television now for almost 12 years. Having started as a continuity announcer back in 1998, Pamela moved to London where she worked in production at the BBC before going back in front of camera with the Travel Channel who she was with for 3 years. Pamela returned to Dublin in November 2001 to work on Off the Rails. In the meantime she has taken part in other programmes for RTE such as No Frontiers, Anonymous, The Afternoon Show, The Panel and The Restaurant. She also presented the 2008 series Marry Me.

Animal Assisted Therapy

Besides the general visits a dog can also take the next step up past the visiting a home and participate in Animal Assisted Therapy. This is where a dog would work exclusively and intensively with one person. Through tasks such as throwing a ball or walking with a dog, the person can help rebuild flexibility and strength etc. The dogs for this need to be specially trained, but they can be extremely important in a patients rehabilitation.

Peata's principal activity is the Pet Visiting Scheme in which approved volunteers and their dogs pay regular visits to caring institutions. Typically visits are weekly and last about an hour.

All Visiting Teams registered as members of Peata have to be assessed and approved for suitability. The owner/handler should have a caring attitude and must demonstrate full control of the dog in all situations and show that they can carry out visits in a manner that is non-disruptive to the functioning of the institution. The dog must undergo behavioural assessment to ensure its friendly nature and that it is at ease in hospital-like environments.

Visiting Teams are fully insured by Peata in the course of their visiting work. Commitment is an essential requirement of all Peata visitors as patients build a relationship with the dog and look forward to the visits.

Contact Peata on 012964474 or

What's up next week?

Next week we'll be looking at sniffer dogs who have stopped millions of euro of drugs from entering the country! We'll see how they are trained and how they operate.