Dominion Hospital
July 19, 2016

Dominion Hospital has been thrilled to have engaged in a partnership with the Go Team NOVA Therapy Dogs since the fall of 2015, with the team visiting all inpatient units each weekend. The Go Team is a nationally recognized organization dedicated to placing well trained certified therapy dog teams in programs that provide comfort and caring through a canine-human bond.

Canine assisted therapy has been used successfully in the treatment of many psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and in chemical dependency interventions and therapy. Canine assisted therapy has also been used as an intervention for autism, anxiety, intellectual disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease and many more.

Studies have shown that petting dogs prompts a release of several “feel good” hormones including serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, which can have a positive impact in the treatment of patients dealing with mental health, age related, and developmental disorders. In addition, canine assisted therapy may help patients develop nurturing skills and the development of a sense of empathy when interacting with the dog. Engaging with a dog can encourage patients to think about the needs of others and fosters teamwork, communication, trust, and self-expression in their recovery or therapy process. Canine assisted therapy also introduces a nonbiased, caring outlet into sessions that can help defuse tension during challenging discussions, flashbacks or sensitive topics.

Go Team NOVA Therapy Dogs have undergone specific training and testing to prepare for psychiatric and occupational therapy work. Their testing includes three American Kennel Club obedience titles, Canine Good Citizen, Community Canine and Urban Canine; a rigorous therapy test which examines everything from noise reactivity, crowds, children, high stress environments, seniors, food desensitization, transportation, crisis response training and more, all while remaining focused, relaxed and calm. The Go Team also volunteers within the NOVA community in many ways including: Wounded Warrior recovery, VA hospitals, substance abuse rehab centers, special needs student programs, Alzheimer’s treatment units, Fairfax County Public Schools, dog safety classes, nursing homes and more.