- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

RAWLINS, Wyo. (AP) - Therapists are using dog therapy for children’s programs where children learn to control their emotions and learn boundaries of behavior, including dogs that build confidence and dogs that help foster children and children with broken families.

“We offer a variety of different experiences for the children, and playing with the dogs is one of them,” LS Counseling therapist Jessica Bright said.

Therapist Michelle Laurienti said the dogs, especially her Great Dane, Peanut, are also used for self-esteem programs.

“We have some children who think there’s no way they could walk Peanut because she’s so huge.” Laurienti said. “But then they walk her and see that they can handle an animal as big as she is. She is a great confidence builder.”

Bright said her dog, Mia, works well with foster children and children with broken families, the Rawlins Daily Times reported (https://tinyurl.com/kckgxaw ).

“Mia is a rescue dog,” Bright said. “She was rejected by her previous owner. I think this really helps some kids bond with her. They might feel rejected too, so they can relate with her situation.”

The dogs offer a healing process that the children who interact with them embrace, Bright said.

There’s also a program for youths who are recovering from substance abuse, Laurienti said. They work with Rawlins Rochelle Animal Shelter to complete community service.

The youths serving community service have helped the dogs at the animal shelter by playing with them and walking them. They have also helped with advertising and doing fundraisers for the animal shelter.

The dogs help children be more open and brings them out of their shells, Bright said.

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Information from: Rawlins (Wyo.) Daily Times, https://www.rawlinstimes.com

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