Figuring out the magic behind therapy dogs
Milo is a boy. Chad is a dog. Together, they are an anecdote — one used to start off this New York Times story, but more importantly one that shows the tremendous, and not fully understood, therapeutic power of dogs.
As the Times recounts it, Chad, a yellow Labrador retriever, moved in with Milo and his family in Manhattan last spring. The hope was, as an autism service dog, he would protect Milo, who sometimes has tantrums or tries to run away while outside.
He did that and more, and the effects were nearly immediate.
“Within, I would say, a week, I noticed enormous changes,” Milo’s mother said of her son. “More and more changes have happened over the months as their bond has grown. He’s much calmer. He can concentrate for much longer periods of time. It’s almost like a cloud has lifted.”
Doctors noticed it as well. “He started to give me narratives in a way he never did,” one said of Milo, adding that Milo mostly talked about the dog. The changes have been so profound that doctors are considering weaning Milo from some of his medication.
While anecdotal evidence has long been piling up on how dogs benefit human health, research has been limited.
Now, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, wants to take a closer look, the Times reports.
In partnership with the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition in England (part of the Mars candy and pet food company), the child health institute is seeking proposals for research projects that “focus on the interaction between humans and animals.”
It is looking to fund studies on how dog-human interactions affect typical development and health, and whether they have therapeutic and public-health benefits.
When Mars became aware of the institutes’ interest, a public-private partnership was established, with the company committing more than $2 million. The National Institute of Nursing is also providing money.
(Photo: CBS News)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 8th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, autism, autistic, benefits, chad, dog, dog-human, dogs, eunice kennedy shriver institute of child health and human development, grants, health, humans, milo, national institutes of health, pets, proposals, relationship, research, service, service dogs, study, therapy dogs, waltham center for pet nutritiion, yellow lab