Stichting Contacthond
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Stichting Contacthond

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Foundation Contacthond

Learn more in this blog about Stichting Contacthond and the collaboration Sabrina Brando and AnimalConcepts have with this amazing foundation!

Foundation Contacthond is a Dutch organisation that supports people who face daily challenges in their lives in a unique way – using specially trained dogs and trainers as support in a variety of therapy sessions.

There has always been a powerful connection between people and animals. The beneficial health impact that animals can have on humans is an ancient concept and therapeutic use of animals has been documented since the late 18th century.

There are many therapies that can be used for different problems and target groups.
For example, therapies exist for people with autism spectrum disorders, people who are mentally ill, and elderly people who are rehabilitating after an injury or who are struggling with dementia. In these specific therapies animals can optimise the results of therapeutic processes, a method called Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI).

Studies show that both physical and mental health are addressed when animals are used in therapeutic sessions. Not only can dogs motivate patients to take part in exercises, but their presence also reduces stress and helps modulate the feeling of physical pain. Physiologically, it reduces patient levels of anxiety, sadness, and loneliness and it has been documented that peoples’ social skills function better in the company of a dog.

Contacthond employs dogs who have received specialised training during a variety of therapies for different target groups. They offer therapy and coaching sessions for younger people challenged by disorders that impair growth and development. For example, children with down-syndrome or a disorder on the autism spectrum often struggle to make contact with a world that feels unfamiliar. Contacthond also offer services for people who have been admitted to care institutions due to dementia or a need for intensive rehabilitation. The organisation works only with registered therapists, engaging a large range of expertise. These experts evaluate each and every individual’s case to determine the best possible method of treatment. As part of the treatment process the specialised trained dogs and their dog trainers are brought in to complement sessions with specifically chosen exercises to achieve maximum results.

Dogs bring a new dimension to the process. Not only do they respond to how the person is behaving, they motivate the patient to move and stimulate senses. This leads to an easier translation of the root causes of certain problems, allowing exercises to be performed more easily. As an added bonus, most people enjoy interacting with these happy fur balls and this makes the therapy even more approachable.

Of course, it is important to spread the word that people can be helped by this kind of animal-assisted therapy. However, the crucial aspect of animal welfare should not and cannot be overlooked. It is essential to make sure that the welfare of these animals is not compromised. Animals experience stress and emotions, and they can get exhausted from overexertion just like us humans can. In order to make sure that these animals (in this case the dogs) are suitable for AAI, specific selection protocols are developed. Dogs need to be healthy, at a certain age, and have specific skills. Another important piece of criteria is that the dog is happy to do the work and does not show any signs of reluctance during the work. Contacthond carefully selects the dogs with their experienced dog-trainers who know exactly how to work with these special therapist dogs.

When a dog is taking part in a therapeutic session the handler monitors the dog constantly to make sure the dog is still enjoying the work and does not get tired or become stressed. Contacthond also supports research initiatives that focus on the wellbeing of AAI dogs and shares this information as much as possible. As the organisation says: the improvement of people’s wellbeing can never be achieved at the cost of the dogs wellbeing.

Sabrina Brando is an ambassador of Foundation Contacthond and supports their mission. She provides valuable knowledge and assistance on animal welfare and research related topics.
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