Puppy therapy at Integrated Disability Support Service

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At 10 weeks of age, puppy Harvey is the youngest team member at Integrated Disability Support Service in Bundaberg.

But there are a couple of differences between Harvey and others who work there. Harvey has four legs, a wagging tail and is the organisation’s therapy dog.

Director at Integrated Disability Support Service in Bundaberg, Kahli Olesen, said Harvey has been a hit with clients and residents.

“Harvey has been with us at IDSS for a week and he is off to the first stages of training next month,” Kahli said.

“After that he will go into a therapy puppy training program, which will take about 12-18 months before he is fully qualified.

“Right now, he is being a good little puppy and giving puppy support to everyone who walks through our doors.”

03072020 Kahli Olesen, Harvey 01
Director Kahli Olesen with new puppy Harvey at IDSS.

Puppy support promotes mental and physical health

The brown boisterous pup provides emotional support, an adorable puppy face, and two floppy ears to listen to clients, residents and staff.

“He is quite calming for many of our residents and they find a lot of joy in playing with him and patting him, and because he is so soft and fluffy it’s fantastic for our clients who have  anxiety or stress related conditions, because patting a dog has been shown to be particularly therapeutic,” Kahli said.

Integrated Disability Support Service is a registered NDIS provider which offers services for children and adults and provides continuous, reliable support to those isolated and vulnerable.

Kahli said IDSS jumped on the idea with research showing therapy dogs can reduce stress and provide a sense of connection in difficult situations.

“Harvey is a Tamaruke and they are specifically bred as therapy and assistance animals; they’re hypoallergenic, they don’t shed, well-tempered and very intelligent and easily trained,” Kahli said.

“I have a background in psychiatric nursing and as part of that we had animal therapy, so as IDSS grew we identified a need for it here.

“Everyone knows that when you have a pet it reduces your anxiety, your stress and it has a lot of psycho physiological effects on the body, so it reduces all those cortisol levels and releases happy endorphins.”

“In all the unknown of COVID, we thought it was a great opportunity for our residents to have something in their lives that is a constant, and animals definitely offer that.”

Animal assisted therapy can:

  • Teach empathy and appropriate interpersonal skills.
  • Help individuals develop social skills.
  • Be soothing and the presence of animals can more quickly build rapport between the professional and client.
  • Improve individual’s skills to pick up social cues imperative to human relationships. Professionals can process that information and use it to help clients see how their behaviour affects others.

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