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Sigmund Dog

Excerpted from "What Do Dogs Know?":

Dogs do many things to help people. One of their most unusual functions involves assisting in psychotherapy.

This all started with Sigmund Freud, who had a series of dogs, most of them chow-chows. Freud felt that dogs had a special sense that allows them to judge a person's character accurately. For this reason his favorite chow-chow, Jo-Fi, attended all of his therapy sessions; Freud admitted that he often depended upon Jo-Fi for an assessment of the patient's mental state. He also felt that the presence of the dog seemed to have a calming influence on all patients, particularly children.

More recent studies have shown that Freud was correct. Physiological measures show that petting a calm and friendly dog actually reduces stress (as shown by reduced muscle tension, more regular breathing and a slower heart rate).There is even some evidence that people who own dogs are likely to live longer and require less medical attention.

Freud's dog Jo-Fi would alert him to any stress or tension in a patient by where he lay down during the session. He lay relatively close to calm patients, but would stay across the room if the patient was tense. Jo-Fi also helped the great psychoanalyst determine when a therapy session was finished by unfailingly getting up and moving toward the office door when the hour was up. Freud, however, denied the rumor that Jo-Fi actually did the therapeutic psychoanalysis and wrote up the case reports.

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