Visiting children

Children often display superior observational skills and approach animals without hesitation or reservation. Most children display natural, clear body language, as do most dogs. When this is the case, children and dogs quickly establish a common understanding. Children learn sensible ways of interacting with dogs through therapy dog visits. At the same time, mental and/or physical impairments may be improved. Nervous children may be calmer in the presence of a therapy dog, motor deficits may be improved, boisterous children may learn to be more considerate, speech impaired children may learn to give clear commands to the dog. At the same time, all children can sense: "the dog likes me!" When children are allowed to give commands which the dog then executes, self confidence soars.

With severely ill or multiply handicapped children, gentle cuddling from the dog may bring about a more normal breathing rhythm and muscle tone. Often interactions with the dog may open a door so therapeutic treatment may be made possible, or made easier.

Margrit Hatt, an experienced kindergarten teacher, explains: «it appears to me to be increasingly important that children do not confuse animals with stuffed toys, Pokemon, or dangerous beasts, but rather as what they are: human companions with feelings, needs, and individual expressions.»