Canine Therapy

“Canine Therapy uses dogs to promote health and healing.  Like other animals, dogs are accepting, comforting and non-judgmental, making them ideal therapy companions.”

At Deschutes Wilderness, our canine therapy program uses Golden Retrievers very strategically to teach our students how to work on healthy relationships with the ultimate goal being transferable attachment.  Transferable attachment is practicing relationship tools with the canines and then transferring those skills learned to healthy human relationships.  The unconditional love and loyalty that canines provide make them the perfect animal to work with when practicing safe relationships.

When coming to Deschutes Wilderness, students are gradually introduced into the canine program with the initial focus being on their own safety and self-care.  During this time they are encouraged to participate in canine activities and are able to interact daily.  Once students are ready, they are able to take on the role of canine caregiver.  As the canine caregiver, they are responsible for practicing our CASA model which stands for commitment, acceptance, security, and attunement.

Research suggests that through caring for and interacting with a dog, there can be many benefits, including:

  • Decreased stress
  • Increased physical activity and healthy play
  • Relief from anxiety and depression
  • Increased focus and attention through experiential learning
  • Improved communication and social skills
  • Learning appropriate ways to treat self and others
  • Unconditional love, affection, nurturing and empathy
  • Increased self-esteem and feelings of empowerment
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Elevated mood
  • Raised levels of oxytocin
  • Reduced loneliness and bigger sense of purpose
  • Setting and respecting boundaries
  • Motivation to stay in treatment and participate fully in therapy

-CRC Health Group

Meet the Team

Cedar Canine Companion

Ember Canine Companion

Flint Canine Companion


Position: Canine Companion
Cedar spends his time in one of our adolescent girl’s groups. His dad is Flint, and he is the youngest canine in our program. Cedar makes silly “growling” noises in the morning and is a loving and affectionate pup. Not surprising that Cedar is super high energy and always excited to start the day. He brings up the group’s energy level and is also supportive and comforting in times of need. Cedar enjoys sitting in front of you with both paws poised on your legs and is amazingly attuned to individual students’ needs.


Position: Canine Companion

Ember is one of the most energetic, silly, and playful canines in the field. When you pet her, she flops to the ground and rolls over. Ember spends her time with one of our adolescent girl’s groups, and they describe her as “wiggly” when she gets excited. She is dynamic and full of spunk one moment and super chill the next. As Ember is relatively young, our students have done a great job assisting in her training, and she has learned some cool new tricks like speaking and rolling on command. Ember is skilled at sniffing out random items in the field, like her old rubber balls or dog toys that were previously misplaced. Ember has a brother in the field, Flint.


Position: Canine Companion

Flint spends his time with our adolescent boy’s group. He is fun-loving and likes to run off with our students’ socks and gloves, but he always brings them back. Flint is very playful and enjoys a good hide-and-go-seek game. Flint holds the record for the largest stick found and carried. He adores playing fetch and would do so all day if he could. Flint’s trick repertoire is impressive and includes rolling over, sitting pretty, and shaking “hands.” Tricks and fun aside, Flint is a loyal canine who follows our students at their heels and intuitively knows when someone needs some extra cuddling and lap time.