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Meet the dog providing therapy to people struggling with their mental health

Posted: 14/07/21

Meet the dog providing therapy for people struggling with their mental health.

Labrador Retriever Teddy is a dementia therapy dog in Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW)’s Older Adults Services.

Owned by advanced nurse practitioner Julie Young, Teddy comes into Woodhorn Ward at St George’s Park in Morpeth three times a week and has become a well-known face on site.

Known as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), Teddy provides holistic care not only for patients, but to families and staff.

Teddy has had a positive impact since arriving on the ward, improving patients’ physiological, psychological, emotional and social wellbeing. Animals have been found to bring a sense of homeliness and normality to people who are hospitalised.

Julie said: “We thought Teddy would make a good therapy dog because of her good-natured temperament.

“Having her on the ward has encouraged conversations and interaction among patients. It has been particularly beneficial for people with dementia, enabling them to connect with something familiar. Sometimes people see her as their own dog which gives a sense of ownership and achievement.

“Teddy has helped de-escalate situations on the ward as she aids engagement and provides a calming distraction. There’s something about Teddy that makes people relax.

“This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of staff on the ward and the wider Trust.”

Tracy Eccleston, clinical lead physiotherapist at CNTW, said: “The ways Teddy can help our patients are endless. They can take her for a walk to improve their mood and promote physical activity. People on our ward don’t always want to go for a walk but this is something that’s task-orientated and gives them a sense of purpose.”

Research has also shown that having therapy dogs can increase staff mental health and wellbeing, as well as an improved atmosphere within hospital environments. Staff on Woodhorn say Teddy made a big difference to their wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic when it was a stressful time on the ward.

Teddy wears a uniform so knows when she comes onto the ward and behaves differently. She has achieved her basic companionship award at Northumberland Canine Centre and is currently training for her intermediate award.

When she’s not at work, Teddy spends time at home with a Jack Russell puppy, three cats, a horse and a family of four.

For regular pupdates, follow @teddysgp on Twitter.

Woodhorn is an inpatient unit for older people with dementia, providing assessment and treatment using a needs-led model.

CNTW is a leading provider of mental health and disability services in the North East and north Cumbria.