The month of May is observed as the Mental Health Awareness month. With several celebrities coming forward and sharing their experiences with depression and other issues, this is no more a stigma in the society. We’ve heard that therapies can help one come out of isolation, but here’s how people in Bengaluru deal with it, with the help of dog therapy.
This shrink isn’t going to ask you to come into his office, let you sleep on a couch and stay quiet while you let it all out. This ‘dog-tor’ will let you pet him and help release all your stress. Vinayak Chaturvedi, from Therpup a dog cafe in Whitefield said “It is medically proven that dogs help reduce the stress level in an individual. The idea about dog therapy is very famous in the western countries and is yet to gain popularity in ours. We get a minimum of two to three sessions every month and most of it is from corporate organisations. Dogs are therapeutic and can help anyone who feels low or who’s even having a meltdown. We must spread the message that speaking about Mental Health issues isn’t something one should be embarrassed about. I honestly feel that this situation is improving in our country.”
Giving us an insight into what exactly is dog therapy, Nivedita Jithin, a canine behaviourist and trainer, also the founder of Confident Dogs explains, “The animal assisted therapy is relatively a new kind of therapy, where a qualified dog — that has gone through several tests and training – accompanied by a therapist visits people in need of a purpose in life. When a dog is around an individual who is depressed or stressed they tend to stroke its head and experience an instant connect and this soothes them. When it comes to kids these animal therapies are used to keep them active by having the kids play games with the dog. I have personally seen in a few sessions where people come in looking very dejected and reclusive, and in no time when they see my three-year old Labrador, Phoebe running around them they begin to smile radiantly. What a dog can do only a dog can do. There are also programmes where kids are asked to read to dogs and when they react to the intonations kids tend to get excited and this boosts their confidence”
Explaining other ways how animals can assist people Nivedita explains the same with reference to disabled people, “The animal assisted activity however is when a disabled person is given an ethically trained dog to help assist them. In a few cases, dogs help them pick things up and even tries making chores easier for them, this ultimately brings down the frustration in the differently abled.”
Three year-old Labrador Phoebe with Nivedita Jithin
Speaking about her personal experience Preeti Narayanan a mother of a kid with borderline special needs opines, “I feel my daughter has a connection with animals. It has in fact given her a purpose in life. When she is around dogs she has to coordinate with them even if it is a simple game of ‘fetching the ball’, I see this as a form of physical therapy. When Arya plays with dogs based on the connection she has with them, she can understand the concept of emotions and relate to humans in the same way. Dogs do help relieve stress and worries in all possible ways.”
Andy Williams a dog trainer for over 25 years says, “It is true that the presence of a dog can do wonders. When people are depressed, they easily connect with dogs or any animal for that matter. However, we must also understand that if a dog has lived in a family for several years and if that family has any tiffs then this will affect the psychology of dogs, either they get depressed or they become very scared and shy away. It is essential to set aside some time exclusively for the dog before deciding to get one.”