Purina Partnership Launches Touch Therapy Dog Training Program

Press release: Purina

Purina recently launched its employee-led Touch Therapy dog ​​program in response to growing demand for therapy dogs from youth and family-serving organizations. Through the St. Louis-based nonprofit Duo Dogs, the 16-week Touch Therapy certification program will initially include eight Purina employees and their family pets, who will train together to become certified Duo Touch Therapy teams.

The Touch Therapy training program for the first Purina employee is partnering with Duo Dogs, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that connects and connects facility and assistance dogs with individuals and communities. Duo is a Touch Therapy team that visits youth organizations, schools, hospitals, treatment centers, day programs, nursing homes and many other places, providing comfort, love and affection while providing a range of positive mental and physical benefits to each dog and handler. confirms that. including lower blood pressure, reduced feelings of stress and anxiety, and reduced depression. After the training course is completed later this year, graduates will be able to volunteer their efforts at Duo facility partner sites in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area.

The launch of the program comes at a time when mental health awareness is rising and demand for animal-assisted therapy is growing, leaving organizations like Duo Dogs in need of more volunteer Touch Therapy teams. Seven in 10 youth say they struggle with mental health issues, according to a recent study by the National 4-H Council. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives, and one in five Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.

“The timing of this new initiative – to have more Touch Therapy Teams certified and available in our region – is invaluable given the growing demand for mental health support that many organizations are facing. The Touch Team is creating new ways to care for people, especially young people, in our dog and handler community,” said Dawn Van Houten, CEO of Duo Dogs. “Thanks to these passionate Purina employees and their pets, our flagship program is able to provide even more certified Touch Teams so more people can experience the power of pets. We are very grateful for Purina’s continued support and for joining us to address the ongoing mental and physical health needs of our region.”

As part of the Duo Dog Touch Therapy training program, each registered dog is screened for temperament, general health and condition, human acceptance, and willingness to participate in the program. After a temperament evaluation, the Purina employee and dog attend an extensive training course focused on obedience and behavior, situational awareness, patient and team safety, and facility etiquette. Once the trainer and dog have completed training and a final evaluation, the team will be certified as a Touch Therapy team and will be available to visit a wide variety of organizations and facilities as needed.

“At Purina, we believe pets and people are better together, and this program will unleash the healing power of pets and create positive change in our community,” said Steve Degnan, chief human resources officer at Purina. “Our staff understands better than anyone how powerful interaction with pets can be, and we are so grateful that this group of partners and their pets can help bring healing pet interaction to those who need it most, with a valued partner like Duo Dogs. .”

The new worker-pet Touch Therapy program is Purina’s latest step in unlocking the power of pets to those in need. Purina supports St. Louis Children’s Hospital and helped establish the Purina Family Pet Center, which allows family pets to visit pediatric patients within the hospital. Purina also helped launch Paws for Hope at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, which provides patients with access to volunteer pet therapy groups. Additional Purina employee touch therapy groups will be continuously certified. The company hopes to expand the program to other Purina communities in the near future.

Purina also sponsors a litter of puppies that will be raised by Purina employees and trained by Duo Dogs to become certified facility and service dogs.

A growing body of research demonstrates the benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) to support the mental well-being of individuals struggling with a variety of physical and mental health issues. Purina actively studies the power of the human-pet bond through research led by a team of pet behavior scientists and provides funding to support research in this area globally.

Recent Purina human-pet bond research includes a study on the positive effects of dog ownership during a pandemic and a study with the Mayo Clinic on the positive effects of therapy dogs on Fibromyalgia patients. Purina also recently funded and highlighted a study by the University of Missouri showing the benefits of pets for autistic parents and their children, as well as a study by researchers at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to show the value. therapy dogs to provide emotional support to patients with severe mental illness.

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