Philippe Pinel Psychiatric Hospital in Amiens, France benefits from a premium setting of tall trees, vast lawns, and elegant buildings. Yet what is most remarkable about the setting is that one is likely to run into patients walking dogs. The dogs concerned have been trained by staff member and psychiatric nurse William Lambiotte, an experienced dog trainer and behaviorist who initiated dog-assisted care programs at the hospital in the early 2000s.
Lambiotte believed, “If you put dogs that are doing well with people who are doing badly, the dogs’ positive attitude should make its way into the people’s minds.” To create a program at the psychiatric hospital, Lambiotte had to address legitimate concerns about the health and hygiene risks of having dogs in the hospital, deal with issues of organization and staffing, and bring doctors on board. Lambiotte created frameworks for integrating dog-assisted activities into treatment programs that can be adapted to individual patient needs and overall treatment plans. Now, thirty-six doctors regularly prescribe dog-assisted activities.
The effectiveness of the Pinel hospital’s dog-assisted programs has been documented since 2010. Hopefully, other French health care institutions will take advantage of this example and follow suit.