November 17, 2005
Taking care of a pet could give some children a new leash on life. A recent study found that when paired with a multi-disciplined approach to treatment, caring for an animal improved the behavior and social interactions of severely troubled youth in a residential treatment setting.
According to the study, the youth developed significant attachment with the dogs they trained . Teens also indicated they felt responsible for their dogs, a characteristic of growing maturity, doctors say. In addition, the study found that children who cared for pets had changes in their levels of:
â€¢Positive social interactions
â€œThis research documents what we have witnessed firsthandâ€”that caring for animals can help a person develop a healthier outlook on life,â€ said Chuck Thompson, president of CBR YouthConnect.
Thompsonâ€™s organization is a national residential psychiatric and educational facility for moderately to severely-troubled youth ages 10 to 21. The group ran the study, with a grant from The Iams Company, to evaluate its â€œNew Leash On Lifeâ€ program. The program, which pairs teens with abused dogs, has enrolled more than 220 boys and 230 dogs, including 16-year-old C.J. and his miniature poodle, Noah. Thompson says caring for Noah helped C.J. become more responsible and develop the angermanagement and social skills needed to return to his family.
After 10 weeks in the program, Noahâ€”like all New Leash On Life dogsâ€”was placed in an adoptive home.
While many have speculated that caring for pets is beneficial therapy for people with behavioral or psychological disorders, the study was among the first to directly link animal-assisted therapy with improved behavior in adolescent residential treatment facilities.
To learn more about the program or to see the adopted dogs that have completed the program, visit the website at www.CBRYouth.org.
This story provided by North American Precis Syndicate, Inc.
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