Dogs and humans share an ancient bond. Domesticated canines have helped us with hunting, herding, and sounding the alarm against predators and other dangers. And, dogs provide us with a real sense of comfort and emotional support. Research shows that petting a dog stimulates release of oxytocin, a hormone that increases feelings of well-being and affection in both humans and dogs. Petting a dog can lower a person's blood pressure and levels of stress hormones and even help regulate breathing.
There's a reason dogs are often used as therapy animals: they do a great job. Dogs are social creatures and they provide unconditional affection—even to people they don't know. Most dogs are xenophilic, that is, they love strangers.
When you think of therapy, you might think of a human counselor first. After all, people do benefit from talking with a professional therapist. Sometimes, though, especially with children, words aren't the best way to begin. This is where our furry friends can help.
Dr. Michelle Roberts-Schneider, a Walden PhD in Education graduate, knew from her own experience running a home-based child care center that dogs can play a valuable role in early childhood education. But, research on the role of therapy dogs and early childhood development in classroom settings is scant. That's what inspired Dr. Roberts-Schneider to write her dissertation How Educators Use Dogs to Support Children’s Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Development. According to her research on therapy dogs and teaching strategy, therapy dogs are an innovative teaching tool; support children's social, emotional, and behavioral development; and enhance children's experiences.
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