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Dog carting as a therapeutic tool

Driving a Dofunit dog cart requires learning from both the driver and the dog. It takes practice to build a trusting relationship with the dog and to acquire certain technical and operational skills. It also requires reasonable physical ability. The ability to read a dog's body language and communicate with it is acquired while training and driving. Therapists can go about this in two ways. They can do most of the training and preparation themselves and just let the client do the driving, or they can have the client participate in some or all preliminary stages, in accordance with the client’s capabilities and therapeutic needs. Whatever they decide will become part of the therapy plan.

So, what makes the Dofunit dog cart a therapeutic tool? Dog carting is done almost entirely outdoors, but it is not an extreme activity. It involves a relaxed and comfortable ride, at very slow to medium speeds, and it is done sitting down. The close-up exposure to the sights and sounds of nature, without engine noise in the background or windows separating them from the outdoors, allows clients to have experiences they would not have access to otherwise. For clients confined to wheelchairs, for example, it can be a significant and particularly powerful experience, a unique alternative to a walk in nature. To be able to experience such profound experiences can lead to personal empowerment, a sense of achievement, and other desired therapeutic results.

Driving a Dofunit dog cart does not require great physical ability, and it is also suitable for people with physical disabilities. Driving the Dofunit cart is a quiet and calming activity even when the trail is not flat, such as in a grove or forest, along farmland trails, beside rivers, or through parks, thanks to its two independent and separated suspensions and its shock absorbers. These features make the Dofunit cart a practical tool for clients who aren’t especially athletic, for the very young or very old, and for clients who are, for whatever reason, afraid of going fast or of taking risks.

The Dofunit cart can be pulled by a single dog, or by two or three. This makes it an effective tool for people of all ages. For a single child driving a Dofunit dog cart, one dog is enough, but for adults, two dogs are needed. The Dofunit cart’s structure does not allow the dogs to shift out of their place or get close to or drift away from the patient. They are comfortably harnessed to the shaft. Clients, including those who don't especially like dogs, can drive a Dofunit dog cart without fear of having contact with the dog itself. This is an important feature of the Dofunit cart.

The Dofunit cart is lightweight, comes apart and can be easily stored, and can be loaded on a car using any standard bike rack. No particular breed of dog is required for dryland mushing. Any healthy and strong dog can do the job easily. Beyond taking care of the dog, the Dofunit cart requires no extra maintenance or use costs, it does not consume fuel, and it doesn't have to be stored in a garage. These features make the Dofunit cart an accessible and easy-to-use tool that does not require a great investment of time and money from the therapist.

Therapy using a Dofunit dog cart can be done at any stage of the drive, starting as early as training the dog and the ongoing handling, through harnessing and preparing the dog, to the ride itself. The therapist can make beneficial use of any or all of these different stages to treat various problems, physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral. The Dofunit cart allows the therapist to offer a wide range of solutions for a wide range of difficulties, which makes it truly a multi-purpose tool.

Therapy by driving a Dofunit dog cart allows clients to develop an awareness of themselves and their surroundings; improve communication skills (in both directions, expressing themselves and understanding what others are saying); develop self-confidence, independence, patience, assertiveness, empathy, and better work habits; deal with authority and rules; and learn techniques to actively deal with difficulties, frustration, trust building, and problem solving. These are all very important to the social and emotional development of the client.

Clients with learning disabilities and adaptation difficulties have to cope not only with the difficulty itself but with the emotions and feelings that accompany it. These emotions and feelings – disappointment, frustration, helplessness, and worthlessness – carry over in many cases to other areas in the client's life, including the home, school, or work environment.

The dog offers a safe and reliable reference point for the client, and his demands from the client are always direct, clear, predictable, and logical. The dog challenges the client in a fair way and has no prejudice of the person who drives behind him. The dog does not care if the driver is skinny or fat, a fast or slow learner. The dog responds directly to the way he is addressed and dealt with without judging a person’s difficulties or limitations. These characteristics allow the therapist to develop an appropriate therapy plan in which the dog and the dog-related activity – driving the Dofunit cart – will be beneficial for the client. By driving the Dofunit cart, clients can achieve significant results from their therapy sessions and experience success in a clear and monitored way. Beyond that, driving a Dofunit dog cart, which is an unfamiliar and intriguing activity, can trigger curiosity and encourage the client to ask questions and be more inquisitive. The drive can be a psychological boost for the client, allowing him to develop his hidden potential.

Therapy can be carried out individually or with a group. It will be composed of sessions combining work with a psychologist or therapist, and when possible, it may even allow the client to drive independently on supervised or open trails. The joint work of the therapist, the client, and the dog allows the client to understand and analyze in a structured, protected environment that isn't associated in his eyes with the regular learning environment. It encourages clients to identify new ways of coping with the same difficulties, away from their familiar settings. A correct therapy program can reduce the sense of threat and fear and increase the client's desire to develop new additional and more effective ways of coping.


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