The benefits of therapy dogs for children with anxiety:
Let’s put the studies aside for a moment and look at some anecdotal evidence for why therapy dogs are important for children with social anxieties or disabilities.
One example, from Rachel McPherson’s Every Dog Has a Gift, is of children reading to dogs. Whether your child is struggling with trust issues, self-esteem, or lagging literacy skills due to social anxiety, reading to their dog is a wonderful way to improve their confidence, literacy, and social skills.
Other anecdotal evidence suggests that children with severe social anxiety will connect with and trust a therapy dog, even when it has been difficult for them to connect with their families. Dogs, you see, are a lot easier to talk to than a teacher or a peer or sometimes even your siblings and parents.
A therapy dog will be a confidant for your child – a friend with whom they can share anxieties and draw the support necessary to face their fears. A therapy dog can help your child to step out of her comfort zone, meet new people, and try new things. Therapy dogs often make a wonderful addition to families with an anxious child and can mean a world of difference for the child.
So does this mean you should get your anxious child a therapy dog?
Yes! No! It depends?
As with any pet, there are many considerations you should talk about with your family before adopting a dog, even a highly trained therapy dog.
Now that we’ve addressed the myriad benefits of therapy dogs for anxious children, there is really just one major point of discussion: is your family ready for the responsibilities and expenses that come along with a pet? While studies show that pets – dogs especially – lessen anxiety and lengthen lifespans, pets can also be a significant source of stress for caretakers. Be realistic about how a pet would fit into your life before you commit.
Often there is an arsenal of tools that you can pull from to assist children with anxiety. Having a therapy dog is one tool. Here is a link with lots of information about emotional support dogs. Our product, Turnaround Anxiety, is another tool.