Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues can have a devastating effect on our sense of wellbeing. Dogs, horses and other animals are proven to enhance human happiness by providing comfort, support and companionship.
An assistant pet provides support for someone suffering from mental health issues so that they can live a more normal life. Assistance pets provide companionship and a safe, grounding presence. They are reliable and always kind and caring. They also increase social interaction between their owner and other people, in particular, dogs. People smile at dog owners more and stop to talk, which alone can reduce the sense of isolation common in people suffering from anxiety and depression.
Dogs and other animals such as guinea pigs, rabbits and horses have been used in therapy sessions with great success. Studies report reduced levels of anxiety and improved communication between therapist and patient when an animal is present, partly because the focus is on the animal and not just the patient. Read more about the benefits of pet therapy.
Horses are recognised for their therapeutic value, thanks to their uncanny ability to reflect what a human is feeling. Horses can smell adrenaline, hear our heartbeat from five metres away and monitor our breath. Natural horsemanship has been proven to help people with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress to better regulate their emotions. A process called equine-assisted narrative practice helps people rethink the limiting labels they have given themselves or been given. This enables them to reach a calm state and manage their feelings more easily. Equine therapy is also proven to enhance the happiness of people with intellectual and physical disabilities.