Pet-Therapy

As a valuable tool for individuals with disabilities, we can provide pet-assisted therapy At the outpatient clinic of our center, the psychomotricity is assisted by three dogs, two German Shepherds named Byron and Yago and one Saint Bernard named Bee Bop, appropriately trained to work with children with disabilities.This therapeutic intervention is being implemented by Developmental Neuropsychomotor therapists  Tiziana D'Onofrio and Angelo Esposito.

The animal assisted therapy is aimed at improving the physical, social and emotional sphere of patients to whom they are directed. They don’t appear as single method, infallible nor a substitute to other forms of therapy, but alongside them. The limitation, design and implementation of such an intervention requires the presence of a multidisciplinary team, depending on the patient and the disease being treated.

Therefore, the "Pet Therapy" can help:

·         People with relationship difficulties;

·         People in confusion, for example, in the presence of a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, schizophrenia, stroke;

  • People with developmental disorders such as Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, hyperactivity, attention deficit;
  • People with physical disabilities such as Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, stroke, forked-spine;
  • People with language disorders linked, for instance, to multiple sclerosis, developmental disorders, stroke, hearing problems, depression, cerebral palsy;
  • People with hearing problems, such as to induce a strong sense of isolation;
  • People with visus problems, in which some sensory modalities, such as hearing and touching, are more developed, for compensation;
  • People with psychiatric disorders, such as reactive depression and / or endogenous, schizophrenia, eating disorders, personality disorders;
  • Individuals who have suffered sensory deprivation;
  • Terminally ill;
  • Children;
  • Elderly

To sum up, people who need, for different reasons, to come out from a particular moment of difficulty , feel inadequate, need to reverse the negative thoughts, social or moral suffering from loneliness, fear the others' judgement, have difficulty in communicating, are aware of their state of disabled, fear the confrontation with the outside world.

The sense of inadequacy, which usually affects people who suffer from congenital malformations, especially troubling (epilepsy, dyslexia), neurological disorders (such as autism), acquired disabilities, is one of the major problems to be addressed to improve the quality of life for these people.
The animal becomes the referent of choice thanks to its diversity, which makes it valuable for traits not found in contemporary society because:
does not judge
does not compete
does not refuse (no denying membership)
gives meaning to our presence
provides cognitive stimulation
diverts attention from the problems (phobias, anxiety, depression)
offers communication chances

The implementation of an intervention by the animal-assisted therapy involves the making of the assessment of personality both of the animal, and the potential user, and knowledge of the specific pathology of the latter, so as to foster mutual adaptation.

The human-animal interactions, and in our case baby-dog, can give the following benefits:

  • Empathy (ability to be in touch with others) . Some studies show that children, who can relate in a consistent manner with an animal, develop greater empathy for children who have not given this opportunity. It’ s easier to teach a child to be empathetic with an animal, because animals are as they appear. Men are not so direct. You can teach the child how to read body language of the animal. The understanding of what an animal tests is easier, as the animal is spontaneous and alive at the time. When the child grows up, his ability to empathize with the animals is transferred to his experiences to other human beings.
  • Focusing on the external environment. Individuals who have mental illness or low self-esteem, focus their attention on themselves and the animals ,dogs in our specific case, can help them turn their attention outward. Rather than talking and thinking about themselves and their problems, they learn to focus on animals.
  • Take care of growth and development of another living being. Many children at risk have not learned the skills to care through the traditional channels of their parents. When a child learns to take care of an animal, he can develop these skills. Psychologically, when a person takes care of other creatures, including their need to be cared for.
  • Report (a report of mutual). Animals can open a channel of communication between patient and therapist. The animals give emotional security. If the therapist has an animal in its proper context of intervention, the patient has a positive attitude. The presence of the animal can break the initial resistance of the patient. It's very likely that children project their feelings and their experiences on an animal.
  • Acceptance (favorable acceptance or approval). Animals accepted others without constraints. They do not care about how a person looks or what he says. An animal accepts without judging, forgiving and does not know the mind games that people often use.
  • Fun. The presence of an animal can be entertaining. Even people who do not like animals often enjoy watching their reactions.
  • Social skills (looking for and enjoying the company of others). Studies have shown that the presence of animals involves a greater degree of enjoyment and interaction among the users than any other time of therapy. In an environment where there are multiple patients, the presence of the animal encourages socialization in three ways: between users, between users and staff; among users, staff, family and other visitors. Staff members noted that it is easier to interact with users during and right after visits to the animals. Family members are often present during this therapy and some have noted that this is a particularly pleasant.
  • Mental stimulation. The mental stimulation occurs through increased communication with others, the evocation of memories and entertainment provided by the animal. Institutionalization in a state of depression or the presence of the animal  brightenes the atmosphere, increasing amusement, laughter and play. These positive distractions may help to reduce patiens' feelings of isolation or alienation.
  • Physical contact. Much has been written about the correlation between physical contact and health. Children who are not accustomed to physical contact do not develop healthy relationships with others, and often fail to grow. Some people do not accept physical contact, but accept the contact with an animal. In the field of rehabilitation, where some methods of intervention are both painful and invasive, contact with the animal tends to be reassuring and pleasant.
  • Physiological benefits (positive effects on the core of the body).


Some physiological benefits have been recognized by scientific experts;

  • Neuroendocrine mechanism
    The literature reports some research linking the human-pet relationship with the structure of the most important neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine), ie the molecules that regulate the activity and allow the nervous system, acting on supervision, the motivation, mood.
  • Eethological mechanism
    According to some authors, the man being particularly gifted as a sort of parental care, has a strong appetite in the adoption and consumption of interspecies behavior for the care.
  • Psychological Mechanism
    The analysis on patients’ motivations demonstrates the need to build rewarding relationships with playful stimulations, cognitive, anxiety, depression, and creation of free-spaces from the competition.
  • Cardiological Mechanism
    In 1995, the American Journal of Cardiology has reported that among the owners of animals, the mortality rate was 50% lower than other people. E. Friedmann has clinically shown the most a relevant reduction of heart disease elements: blood pressure, cardio-respiratory frequency, blood cholesterol.
  • Immunological mechanisms
    According to other studies, the presence of an emotional bond with the animal acts on the mediators of stress and the endorphin system, improving the immune system activity and providing an edge over the body to deal with infectious diseases and cancer.