Bullying: Could Canine-Assisted Therapy Be the Answer?

August 28, 2019
Bullying is a common problem amongst children and teenagers. But could canine-assisted therapy be the answer? Let's take a look.

School bullying is a common problem amongst children and teenagers, and can take the form of psychological, verbal or physical abuse. But could canine-assisted therapy be the answer? Let’s take a look.

The origins of bullying

While it hasn’t always been classified into different types, bullying has always existed in one form or another. However, over the last few years, bullying levels around the world have soared.

Recent technological and digital advances have even given rise to a new form of bullying, known as cyber-bullying. Sadly, our modern, tech-centric lifestyles have made it far easier for bullies to gain access to their victims.

A boy and a puppy.

Furthermore, technology allows information to spread further and faster than ever before, while also allowing bullies to remain anonymous and gain the support of other bullies.

Due to the fact that it normally takes place in classrooms and schoolyards, it is commonly known as school bullying. Even on social media, the majority of bullies are children and teenagers.

As such, it’s important for parents to keep a close eye on their children, and monitor what they get up to online.

Bullying: a form of aggression

This type of abuse relies on the constant threat of violence, which creates what is known as a power relationship between bully and victim. Even if it’s only symbolic, this relationship gives the bully a sense of influence and control.

Bullying can cause the following symptoms in victims:

  • Terror: victims may suffer from extreme fear, and will try to avoid the bully as much as possible. For example, if they know the bully from school, they may try to avoid going to class at all costs, and may even feign illness.
  • Victims may also experience a perpetual state of anxiety. They often feel as if they’re being followed or may be attacked or mocked at any time, even if it’s not the case.
  • Victims of bullying often suffer from depression, and may spend large amounts of time alone. The prolonged aggression and exclusion from social groups can often leave them feeling overwhelmed.

The importance of tackling bullying

It’s important to know how to recognize the early warning signs of bullying, and to take steps to tackle the situation as soon as possible. Bullying can quickly escalate to harassment, and can have long-term effects on the victim. In some cases, bullying can be so severe that victims feel as if their lives are no longer worth living. They may even try to take their own lives.

Canine-assisted therapy

There are many different programs that use animals as a form of therapy. In Spain, for example, there is the association Entrecanes which offers canine-assisted therapy as a way of combatting school bullying.

The program consists of eight sessions, where children and teenagers take part in a range of different workshops. These workshops focus on learning to identify and control different emotions. In doing so, they help them find potential solutions to their problem.

One of the tasks participants are given during their canine-assisted therapy is to work together to teach the dogs how to solve certain puzzles or perform different tasks. During these exercises, participants are encouraged to communicate and socialize with each other so they can devise a strategy, and come up with a way to complete the task.

Play is a crucial aspect of canine-assisted therapy. Whether they enjoy the activities themselves or simply enjoy spending time with animals, it’s a great way to motivate children and teenagers alike.

As well being an effective way to support victims of bullying, canine-assisted therapy can actually help to prevent it. The close bond they develop with the dogs can help participants improve their social skills. They learn to adapt to different situations, and how to resolve any conflict they may encounter in their daily lives.

A boy and his dog.

Canine-assisted therapy can have a significant impact on the participants’ cognitive and emotional development. It can help participants clear their mind of negative thoughts, and give them more confidence, both in themselves and in their environment.

Benefits of canine-assisted therapy

Young victims of bullying often find themselves at a loss as to what to do. It’s important for adults to keep a close eye on their children. That way, they can prevent and combat bullying early on, which will help prevent serious outcomes such as depression and suicide.