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Labradors as Therapy Companions for Children

labradors for children

Who could be better for your child than a furry, four-legged friend who is always ready to play and never too busy to listen? That’s what a Labrador is. Labradors are friendly and ideal companions for therapy.

These dogs are fun to be around and have a proven track record of providing emotional support and improving children’s mental health. From children with autism to kids suffering from anxiety, they help all and can be friends with anyone.

But don’t just take my word for it; learn the science in this article on why Labradors make such great therapy dogs for kids. You can learn more about their peculiarities and understand whether a Labrador suits your family.

Benefits of Labradors as Therapy Companions for Children

Labradors have one of the best reputations for America’s most beloved dog breeds and also for being valuable therapy companions. This phenomenal dog has astonishing abilities in calming children’s mental health conditions.

Therefore, in the next discussion, we are going to pay particular attention to the benefits of owning a Labrador of your most preferred kind as a therapy companion, with most focus on the potential impact that can be exerted on anxiety and stress among children, social interactions, and their emotional state.

Decreased Anxiety and Stress

Labradors are good for helping kids when they are anxious and stressed. Their very calm and friendly nature lends excellent comfort for those high-stress periods that all kids go through and even more so for those suffering from mental health conditions. Imagine a child coming home after a stressful day at school. Meet the four-legged therapist at home with a wagging tail, calming energy, and an empathetic look that tells you, “I am with you.” Studies showed that having a Labrador around reduces the level of cortisol—the hormone of stress in your body—and raises the level of oxytocin, the hormone of happiness.

Increased Social Interaction

Labradors are very social animals by nature and love to be with people. Their infectious energy greatly impacts children and can help them involve themselves more actively in general environments without holding back. Better social interaction could improve the development of self-esteem in children, which is another important criterion for overall child growth.

Improved Emotional Well-Being

Another paramount benefit of Labradors as therapy friends is boosting the child’s emotional well-being. A mental health condition most times makes the child isolated and lonely amidst their sufferings; a patient and loyal friend may make a world of difference. Labradors seem to know what makes you sorrowful and appear to see that in your eyes. Labradors serve with loyalty and unwavering companionship to develop emotional stability and resilience in children, which may help offer the children lifelong emotional well-being.

Selecting the Right Labrador as a Therapy Companion

When you undertake therapy work with a Labrador, you are not choosing a pet but a partner. The Labrador you select can make all the difference in the world regarding the effectiveness of your therapy sessions. Ideal candidates would be patient, intelligent, friendly, and calm. Basic obedience training will give them a firm foundation. These shall be further examined for health, genetic considerations, and matching energy levels.

Health and Genetic Considerations

One of the biggest research considerations is Labrador’s health. Ensuring good health and strong genetics in the potential companion Labrador will improve its efficiency as a therapy companion and give it a long and productive lifespan that will result in many years of help and friendship.

You have to ensure a full history of the dog’s health, including records on vaccination and any chronic conditions, such as hip/elbow dysplasia, vision, or heart conditions, which are common health issues in Labradors. Always ask for certification from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP scoring and certification in eye health from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF).

Matching Energy Levels

In reality, Labradors are bred into two different energy-level dogs: the field/working line (high energy) and the show/bench line (lower energy). Field-line Labradors are set apart by their high energy level and very good capacities for quick learning, making them suitable for every kind of mental stimulation, even with kids who have an active way of life. On the other hand, show-line Labradors do not have such high energy but are always looking to learn and please. This temperament type can be perfect for children who need calm and comforting company.

Integrating Labradors into Therapy Sessions for Children

After selecting the right Labrador as a therapy companion, it’s time to focus on integrating the Labrador properly into the therapy session with kids.

Setting Boundaries and Expectations

Step one on this journey is about setting boundaries and expectations. Naturewise, Labradors have a very agreeable and easily trainable temperament, making them ideal therapy dogs. However, it is a prime necessity to set limits right from the beginning—the stage at which they must know when it is time to work and when it is not.

Training methods should be consistent and based on positive reinforcement. Commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “quiet” establish control, and teaching them to be calm on command should be followed through. Always remember the goal: develop a well-mannered, disciplined therapy dog that comforts the children they serve.

Consider hiring professional trainers who specialize in therapy dog training. They will be able to help you communicate with your Labrador more effectively by guiding you through the commands that should be followed while hastening the process so that he doesn’t pick up some of the negative behaviors.

Incorporating Play and Activities

With these boundaries set, the next step is incorporating play and activities. All exercises are serious business, and adding some fun will help the child have a more relaxed atmosphere.

Labradors are very playful and have lots of energy. They bring joy and increase children’s activity. Use one of the Labrador’s favorite game activities, fetch or pull, to motivate the child in therapy.

Further, at a later stage, the therapist may introduce toys that will further interaction. These may include balls, frisbees, or simple puzzle games that both can solve. Remember, every next activity must be carefully chosen to align with the therapy goals.

To further reinforce the bond between the child and the Labrador, let the child be part of the process by dishing out treats and praises. The child will develop a sense of responsibility and understanding of the Labrador’s responsibility; hence, the therapy will be successful.

Always prioritize the children’s safety in these activities. Everything should be appropriate for their ages and require close supervision to avoid unnecessary accidents.

Having a Labrador in your children’s therapy is not a step but a giant leap in progress. The presence of a Labrador can contribute to a beautifully therapeutic and enjoyable experience for those under your care.

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