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Can remote dog therapy work?

What do you do when the plans you had did not work out? 

This week I was supposed to go back with my therapy dog to school. It didn’t work out. Even though we made an appointment with teachers, we found out that the school had to pivot to online learning for this week, so these appointments got canceled. We hope we can go back next week. We cannot wait to see children’s faces and their hands stretching to pet Carmel. But, if learning is remote next week, we will just schedule a remote therapy visit with the teachers. 

A red golden doodle in front of the laptop screen
Carmel on the screen during a remote visit.

Before the COVID-19 shutdown, nobody was even thinking about utilizing technology for remote dog therapy. But the shutdown made us all think about how we can provide dog therapy, or at least a taste of it, through digital platforms. Some therapy dog teams chose to never try these alternative ways, thinking that remote therapy might be just counter to the essence of dog therapy. Since such therapy relies on touching and petting dogs, trying to use technology to achieve a similar experience almost doesn’t make sense. But some therapy teams, including me, gave technologies a chance. As I work in the education field, learning new things is something I’m familiar with an open to. Of course, in order to try this new kind of visits, you also have to collaborate with a teacher who would be open to such experimenting.

I tried this experiment with second graders and it worked very well. Even the children couldn’t touch Carmel, they could see her smiling and eating treats, and these moments made them smile. I also shared videos of Carmel playing in a stream, romping in the dog park with other doodles, or going through tunnels and jumping in her agility class. These videos led to more conversations with children about dogs, their activities, and how learning they do in school can compare to learning and challenges dogs also experience in their own classes. 

To conclude, sometimes obstacles in our lives are needed and necessary to have us consider other possibilities and avenues, just like in the case of remote dog therapy visits. Would you try a remote dog therapy visit?

If you would like to learn more about those remote visits and beyond, please check my book on Amazon: 

The Amazing Power of Dog Therapy

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comment 4 comments
  • Daniel

    Wow! This is a testimony to the power of dogs. Just seeing Carmel on the screen has such a positive effect on people. I can see how this could be taken further.

    • Barbara

      That is right! Seeing and conversations were working. Carmel became a part of the class live. Enthusiastic teachers who see this power are so critical, too! It’s all about those collaborations!

      • TheWizard

        I bet some of these visits would make awesome videos!

        • Barbara

          Right! So far I have been documenting therapy visits in pictures but I started making videos in June. Just a video showing Carmel being petted by 10 hands is something. She loves all the hands! lol

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