News By Month

Puppy in training to help children with learning disabilities and autism

Posted on the 24th February 2017

As part of a novel initiative to provide support to young children with learning disabilities, health professionals at Lancashire Care are welcoming a new member to their team: a Shoodle called Ebony.

Ebony, who is 12 weeks old, is being trained to be a therapy dog by members of the Learning Disability and Complex Needs Team at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust. Therapy dogs are particularly valuable in supporting language and communication, reducing anxiety, and helping with depression, emotional regulation, selective mutism and dog phobias.

Zoe Yurek, Senior Learning Disability and Complex Needs Practitioner at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are excited by this new addition to our team and we really hope to be creative with how Ebony provides support. A friend and neighbour had a litter of puppies and when I would visit her, I’d always be drawn to the same little puppy.  No matter how stressed I was, all my worries would just melt away after stroking Ebony for a few minutes. She was the smallest of the litter, the runt, but to me she was simply adorable and perfect.

“I have already got a dog, a Westie called Skye, so it wasn’t my intention to get another, but Ebony was just too irresistible.  Then it suddenly occurred to me that Ebony could be the new Therapy Dog for our team. She will have some big paws to fill and I really hope she has a long career with us.”

Tracey Hartley Smith, Team Leader for the Learning Disability and Complex Needs Team, said: “We all love a little dog and Ebony is just so irresistible. There is an emerging evidence base to indicate that pet therapy is a low-tech, low-cost therapy that improves mood and is meaningful to hospital and community patients. It is, therefore, an exciting development for our team which will be implemented with full consideration of health and safety and with established contracts between practitioners, the young people and their families and Ebony herself.”

Ebony is a Shoodle, whereby her mum is a Shih Tzu and her dad a Toy Poodle. The team previously had a dog who was PAT (Pets As Therapy) certified and provided valuable support to a young boy with autism to overcome his phobia of dogs, which proved successful in helping him overcome the condition.