Written by Dr Amanda Marais
Mauzie, our Miniature Schnauzer, joined our family when she was just eight weeks old. Seeing as she was our first child, we took her for obedience classes when she was still young.
She’s now seven years old, but everyone thinks she’s an adorable puppy. In the meantime, we also got an Irish Terrier, Rebecca, and have been blessed with two children who’ve been growing up with their dog companions ever since. Mauzie is therefore very child-friendly.
DinoDent is a child-focused dental practice situated in Somerset West. Since I work from home it’s been easy to incorporate our family dog as our therapy dog. Earlier in 2019 I saw a picture of a therapy dog used at an overseas dental practice and thought, wow, that’s a great initiative.
Recently, I heard a podcast from the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry (AAPD) who recommended that each paediatric dentist should have a therapy dog. That’s what made me think to start using her as my own therapy dog.
I first took Mauzie to our local vet, to whom our dogs have been going since the beginning. He checked that she was healthy, and we had a conversation about using her as my therapy dog. He agreed that it was a great idea… and recommended that he cleaned her teeth: “We can’t have a smelly dog breath, now can we?”
Mauzie is flea- and tick-free, dewormed, all her other vaccinations are up to date – and she smiles at the kids with clean teeth. She’s bathed every week and gets a full-house grooming once a month.
There are numerous articles that show the benefits of pet therapy. These include improvement of mental health, physical health, and benefitting people with special needs. The South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP) says that dogs can help lower anxiety, stress and heart pressure. It also suggests that your brain secretes happy hormones like serotonin that could help people cope with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder
I’ve found Mauzie to be a wonderful icebreaker when the children are still in the reception room. She accompanies me (on a leash) to them and immediately puts a smile on their face. I sit next to them, Mauzie jumps onto my lap, and we start talking about her; that leads to a whole conversation about pets that helps them relax. I give them a dog pellet to hold in their hands and let her sniff it. Once she’s jumped onto their laps, they give her the pellet. She helps to distract them while I’m treating their teeth, and she’s not bothered by the noise of the suction or hand piece. She also provides comfort and support by sitting or sleeping on their laps.
Once the child is sitting on the dinosaur dental chair, I place her on the child’s lap and the treat is given to her. I maintain excellent hygiene, and Mauzie is also a hypoallergenic dog. Great care is taken to sanitise my hands before I start with my dental procedure, and I don’t touch her while I have gloved hands. It’s only when I’m finished that I help her off the child’s lap without gloves.
I do get some children who fear dogs, and then she needs to wait inside my house. She gently but persistently requests to be let inside the practice by the occasional soft bark. The other day I had a young boy who’d just sat on the dinosaur chair with Mauzie on his lap when he said he wanted to go to the toilet. I took her from him, and she sat on my lap. When he returned, she immediately jumped from my lap to his and we all laughed about it.
Mauzie knows her job description and never complains. She’s a perfectly sized lap dog and helps the kids have a paw-sitive dental experience!
For more information, visit www.dinodent.co.za