"A child who is exposed to the emotional experiences inherent in playing with a pet is given many learning opportunities that are essential to wholesome personality development. His play with the pet will express his view of the world, its animals, and its human beings, including his parents and peers."
- Boris Levinson -
Reports indicate that it is often an animal that brings patients out of their inward shell to speak for the first time. Because of an animal's true nature, it is less stressful for children to talk with an animal than to adults or strangers. Petting an animal is soothing and is reflected in facial expressions as a smoothing out of the lines of tension and a relaxed, open smile. Aaron Katcher stated that "one of the pet's primary functions in therapy has been to act as a bridge by which therapists can reach patients who are withdrawn, uncooperative and uncommunicative." Gladys Blue reported that pets could help children learn six important lessons:
1) love, attachment and comfort
2) sensorimotor and nonverbal learning
3) responsibility, nurturance and sense of competence
4) learning about life, death and grief
5) therapeutic benefits to psychological and physical health
6) nurturing humanness, ecological awareness and ethical responsibility.
Research evidence has shown that contact with animals promotes attention span, cooperation, physical mobility, motor coordination, and language skills while simultaneously reducing stress, anxiety, hostility, and maladaptive behaviors. Moreover, animals augment traditional forms of therapy by teaching the critical skills and rewards of nurturance, play, acceptance, trust, kindness, feelings of self worth, and love.