A Caremark franchise based in North Yorkshire has become one of the UK’s first home care providers to offer a dedicated dog therapy service for its customers.
The Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) service offered by Caremark Redcar and Cleveland involves the use of trained labrador dogs who are taken into people’s homes or out in the community to provide companionship and friendship.
The service is being offered to existing Caremark customers, as well as anyone else who would benefit from animal-based therapy.
Staff at Caremark are also benefiting from interaction with the dogs following a year which has seen them working continuously on the front-line during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The service was the brainchild of Caremark Redcar and Cleveland managing director Michelle Jackson.
She has a labrador called Acer who initially was brought into the Caremark office in Guisborough and became an instant hit with the head office team.
Having seen the positive impact Acer had on staff, he was taken to a community event, before the pandemic, called ‘Safe Place’, which saw staff and customers coming together each week to take part in activities in a social setting.
Jackson commented: “The customers all loved Acer and it was wonderful to see them interact with him, so it gave me the idea introducing dogs as therapy on a wider scale.”
Just prior to the first Covid-19 lockdown, Acer, along with Jackson’s two younger Labradors, Asha and JJ, were being used in an initiative called Therapy Tuesday, where they were brought into people’s homes to provide companionship.
This has now led to the launch of the Assisted Animal Therapy service, with all three dogs having to undergo professional training to ‘qualify’ as therapy animals.
The training is being carried out by dog training and behavioural expert Cath Jarred, who runs The Dog School in Redcar.
Jarred said: “Dogs, like people, learn at different rates, so it’s been about working with the abilities of each dog and making sure that when they go into people’s homes, or out in the community, they have the correct temperament and doing as they are asked.”