Hot Staff's Win N Grin, along with other visitation and therapy dogs, raises the spirits of residents at a care home .
printed in the magazin Bull & Terrier Journal 2009
published by Gesellschaft der Bullterrier Freunde e.V.
printed in the VDH/FCI Mitteilungsblättle 1/2010
published by Landesverband Baden Württemberg für Hundewesen e.V.
There is a great atmosphere at the Sonnenblick Home in Bad Mergentheim, a care home for the chronically ill. Many of the residents have gathered in the foyer and in the social room.
As Hot Staff's Win N Grin charges through the corridors, the care home comes alive.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier enthusiastically greets each of the residents with the typical energy of his breed. The residents react with evident pleasure when it is their turn for the dog's attention. There is immediate lively chatter and interaction among the residents as well as with the care staff.
Within the philosophy of the care home, animal assisted therapy is encouraged within a milieu therapeutic approach. As part of the daily routine there may be as many as five dogs present at a time. The facility provides designated rooms where the dogs can withdraw for "rest periods", as well as a large fenced in area in the garden.
Operational areas for visitation and therapy dogs:
Institutions for the ill,
physically and mentally disabled individuals,
the elderly, children, and emotionally disturbed individuals
The care facility manager, Stefan Zadravec (care therapist) accompanies Hot Staff's Win N Grin during the visit. Together with the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, he seeks out residents who have withdrawn to their rooms. The male dog intensively approaches each person, and they thoroughly enjoy the body contact. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier addresses each resident directly and with persistence. Where emptiness, resignation, listlessness and depression have influenced the lives of the ill residents, there are now visible signs of pleasure. The clients become more approachable in their contact and interaction with the care personnel. With his extrovert, demanding character, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is able to increase the level of motivation of the patients. On departure from the rooms, individual clients attach themselves to the care personnel and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and feel encouraged to visit the communal rooms or to participate in occupational therapies.
Therapy dogs work with a specific purpose together with a therapist or caregiver in the following fields:
Therapy for the blind
Visitation dogs work outside the therapeutic programs together with their owner. The clients are offered the opportunity of stroking, playing, cavorting and walking a dog.
The dog effects an overall improvement in sensory perception. The residents see, hear, smell and feel him. The contact with him is a real tactile experience. The clients feel the warm body, the cold wet nose, the breathing, the rough paws, the movements and the wagging tail when stroking and patting him. Most of the residents allow him to lick their hands and faces. Animal assisted therapy is therefore also very effective when implemented with the visually impaired.
By contact with the dog, the fine motor skills (finger and hand movements during stroking and giving of treats), gross motor skills, body coordination (when playing, romping and walking the dog) as well as the cognitive functions are improved. The ill residents are motivated to express their feelings of excitement, reminisce about their experiences with animals, and reconnect with their earlier lives and their family.
Through the presence of Hot Staff's Win N Grin, the residents overcome their fears of contact. They feel accepted and sense his affection. They experience more enjoyment of life and in the quality of their lives is markedly improved.
Goals of animal assisted therapy:
Attention, physical contact
Access, contact and integration
Motivation and improvement of drive
Stimulation of motor and cognitive performance
Promotion of overall awareness
Increase of self esteem
Acknowledgement of own identity
Promotion of self expression
Boosting of enjoyment of life
We would like to thank Stefan Zadravec, his team and especially the residents at the care facility Sonnenblick Home in Bad Mergentheim for responding so willingly and giving us the opportunity to report on animal assisted therapy.
Translated in English by: Tracy Ann Krohn
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has been used for many years in animal assisted therapy in Great Britain, and is preferred to other breeds for this purpose.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is especially suited as a visitation and therapy dog because of its strong persistent character. In contrast to other breeds used in visitation and therapy treatments, the SBT approaches people more intensely, more exhaustively, and he does so with every individual person. With the energy typical of his breed, he addresses each person until he has achieved his goal and established contact. He greets every person with affection, and gives every person the feeling of being accepted.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier disposition:
High stress threshold
Good response to uncoordinated reactions and movements (e.g. by children or disabled people)
Community service oriented dog owners can visit care homes (which support animal assisted therapy) on a voluntary basis with their dogs.
A visitation dog should be well socialised, have a good temperament, be resilient, patient and remain calm under stress.
If possible, the dog should be familiarised with this field of activity when still a puppy.
See the following links:
Tiere helfen Menschen e.V. www.thmev.de
Pets as therapy www.petsastherapy.org