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Would you like a goat on your lap?

Therapy Goats are now gaining momentum and we have trained and supported many more people to carry on the work we started. No one had heard of Therapy Goats until The Little Farming Company made it a thing. So well done us.

We now receive many emails a month asking if people can start a therapy goat visiting service and our first question is - 'Do your goats have horns?' if the answer is yes, then we state clearly that their lovely and friendly goats are NOT suitable as public therapy goats.

We also advise them on insurance requirements, risk assessment forms and also what qualifications they may have as a therapist. There are a lot of cowboy courses out there that claim to be able to give you a qualification in animal therapy, but they are generally not worth the paper they are written on.


While goats may initially seem like an unconventional choice for therapy animals, they boast numerous qualities that make them ideal for this role. Goats are social animals that display distinct personalities, mirroring the diversity of humans they interact with. Their affable nature and their tendency to engage in playful behavior can lift people’s spirits, providing relief from mental stress and depression. Our goats at The Little Farming Company are trained not to jump up and also to stand motionless while they are stroked. This makes them perfect animals for visiting.

In addition, goats’ herd mentality contributes to their ability to support mental health. They’re naturally curious and interactive, which encourages active participation from those seeking therapy. They can help foster a sense of community and belonging in therapy sessions, promoting socialization and encouraging shared experiences. We always take 2 or 3 goats on a visit, so they have their 'herd' with them. Safety in numbers!


Science Behind Goat Therapy

The psychological benefits of animal-assisted therapy are well-documented. Interaction with animals has been shown to trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone known for its role in social bonding and stress reduction. Physical contact with animals also prompts the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which can create a sense of euphoria and wellbeing.

When it comes to goat therapy specifically, research is in its early stages but preliminary findings are promising. A 2019 study by researchers at the University of California’s School of Veterinary Medicine found that interaction with goats led to a decrease in blood pressure, a common physical response to anxiety. Furthermore, participants reported a significant decrease in their anxiety levels after spending time with the goats.


We do have to clean up after our goats - but a little brush and dustpan plus a roll of kitchen paper and a good disinfectant spray will do the trick for the liquid accidents. Our goats like to have a wee on the grass and if we take them outside every 15 mins etc - they will relieve themselves here instead of on the floor!


Applications of Goat Therapy

Goat therapy has been integrated into various mental health support programs, serving a wide range of age groups and populations. These include seniors with dementia, children with autism, individuals with depression or anxiety, and even those in prisons and rehabilitation centers.

One of the most popular forms of goat therapy is goat yoga, where participants perform yoga poses while interacting with friendly goats. Goat yoga offers a unique blend of relaxation, physical fitness, and animal-assisted therapy that has quickly gained a dedicated following. The presence of goats adds a fun, unexpected element to yoga that can lighten the atmosphere and offer comic relief, in turn reducing stress and enhancing mood.

Goat therapy can also be used in an educational setting to teach empathy and compassion. Interacting with goats encourages care and understanding, instilling valuable lessons about respect for other living beings.


Impact on Mental Health Support

Goat therapy represents a natural and holistic approach to mental health support. The initial findings are promising, suggesting that interaction with goats can help alleviate symptoms of mental health conditions, enhance mood, and promote social interaction.

For those wary of traditional therapy methods or simply seeking complementary therapies, goat therapy provides a fresh, engaging alternative.

However, it is essential to remember that animal-assisted therapy like goat therapy should not replace professional mental health services but serve as a supplement to them. Mental health is complex, and it often requires a multi-pronged approach for successful management and recovery.

Conclusion

The role of animals in supporting human mental health is an area of growing interest and research. The rise of goats as therapy animals reflects our evolving understanding of mental health and our ongoing search for innovative approaches to support mental wellbeing. While more research is needed to fully understand the impact of goats on mental health, the preliminary evidence suggests a promising future for goat therapy. By integrating such unconventional approaches, we can expand our mental health toolkit, making it more diverse, inclusive, and accessible for all. We find that the proof is in the visit. The feedback we receive every time is outstanding.


So therapy dogs - move over, there is a new goat in town.




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