Therapy Dog Helps Confidence

April 20, 2008 – 3:13 pm

Danielle is ten years old and was brought to our Therapy Centre by her mother who was very concerned about her daughter’s extremely shy behaviour and lack of self-esteem. Danielle refused to speak to the counsellor, clung to her Mum, avoiding eye contact and when she spoke to her Mum, spoke only in a whisper.

Sensitive animal lover

At the first session it was established that she is the youngest of four girls, the other three all being outgoing and boisterous. She appeared to have few friends at school and although very bright, rarely spoke out in class and preferred to stay inside in the classroom during playtime and in the lunch break. It was established that Danielle is a naturally sensitive, reserved child and it also seemed apparent that she has a great love of animals.

Making friends with Lola


On the second visit, we arranged for Jill’s Hearing Dog Lola, our resident therapy dog, to be present in the room when Danielle arrived. Lola does not move unless bidden to do so and lay quietly in her bed whilst she and Danielle exchanged looks. Whilst her Mum and the counsellor talked, Danielle edged over to the dog, who was by now wagging her tail in greeting, and held her hand out. By the end of the session they were friends.

Labelled “The shy one”

After that, Danielle was happy to spend time with the counsellor and Lola on her own. Quite soon, she became much more confident in speaking about her feelings and said she only felt OK at home when alone with Mummy or Daddy as her sisters shouted her down, butted in and laughed at her. This hurt her, so she had learned to keep quiet, to watch rather than participate and to avoid trying anything new in case she made a mistake. Thus, she was labelled ‘the shy one’ and was living up to this description.

Family talking and eating

It was suggested to her parents that the family had a meal together sitting around a table at least three times a week. During this time, Danielle was encouraged to talk, perhaps about meeting the dog, and her sisters to listen. This became a habit that they all began to enjoy.

Gradually building confidence

Then she was invited to go to puppy training classes with a neighbour and to join her on dog walks which, to her parents’ surprise, she agreed to. She also sponsored a dog through a national charity. Gradually, she began to be more confident.

A new understanding

Her parents accepted that she was never going to be an extrovert as it was her nature to be more inhibited, but she gradually changed from being ‘the shy one’ to being ‘the animal lover’ of the family.

Counselling for children is available at Marchants House Therapy Centre

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