A two-year study has shown the benefits of dog therapy for children with mental health issues.

23 youngsters aged under 13 from the Day Hospital at the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona took part in the sessions assisted by professionals from the Centre for Assisted Therapies with Dogs(CTAC).

The children were either autistic, had behavioural disorders, or suffered from excess anxiety.

Hospital Clinic mental health nurse, Elias Guillen, said: “We discovered that 75% of emotional incidents with the children were on days where there was no dog therapy.”

Sessions were carried out weekly with 45 minutes allocated to each patient.

“On the days that the dogs visited, there was a different atmosphere which allowed to us assess the children far more easily,” added Guillen.

The hospital’s head of youth psychiatry, Dr. Astrid Morer, said: “It is incredible how the children face situations like an examination with a dog, which they would not have done without forming an affectionate bond with the animal.”

The CTAC selects the dogs that are put through their paces to see if they would be suitable for therapeutic tasks.

All kinds of breeds ranging from large to small were used in the Barcelona study which was supported by ‘La Caixa’ Foundation and animal food manufacturer Purina.

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