Canine Therapy for Attachment Disorders


Canine therapy for teens and adolescents with reactive attachment disorder is an integral part of the program at CALO. In our canine therapy program, students are responsible for taking care of purebred golden retrievers. Students feed, groom, train, exercise, clean up after and play with the canines. Through our unique canine therapy program, teens with reactive attachment disorder learn about self-discipline, commitment, unconditional love and attachment. In addition to the healing and learning that the canine therapy promotes in our students, it also helps ease the transition for New York teens and adolescents to our residential treatment center. Research shows that canines have a calming effect on humans and our golden retrievers are ready to help teens and adolescents with reactive attachment disorder make the transition into treatment easier. Empathy, attachment, love and leadership are all put into practice in our canine therapy program. The canine therapy program provides an opportunity for teens with reactive attachment disorder to practice forming attachments every day.

The regular care of a dog requires teens with reactive attachment disorder to learn the importance of responsibility and the reward for that responsibility, the unconditional love of the golden retriever. Discovering the unconditional love of an animal helps our students practice forming attachments. The attachment to the golden retriever can then develop into a transferable attachment, allowing the teen to relate their own love for the dog to the love their parents have for them. Training the canines can also hold a mirror up to the past behavior of the teen. When a dog demonstrates poor behavior, students can see how their own poor behavior may have affected their parents. The canine therapy program shows our students empathy in a way that is easier for many to understand. Empathy is a feeling that many teens and adolescents with reactive attachment disorder are not used to, or may have not experienced before.

Teens and adolescents have the opportunity in our canine therapy program to serve as foster parents for our golden retrievers, some are able to take the dogs home with them after treatment. For our students with reactive attachment disorder and adoptive parents, the process of adopting a dog can be related to what their parents went through adopting them. Through transferable attachment, the students are able to have a basis of understanding how their parents felt during the adoption process.