In the animal-assisted therapy world, what is a grabber?

Hold one hand while protecting your animal from the other

Hold one hand while protecting your animal from the other

The primary responsibility of a Delta Pet Partners animal-assisted therapy team is to always put their animal’s safety first.

Grabbers are people who will grab at your animal. They may have a form of dementia, thus altering their eyesight and depth perception. They may also have tremendous strength. They may have a form of Parkinson’s or other neurological challenge that makes their movements unpredictable and quick moving. They may have diminished cognitive capabilities and not even realize they are grabbing for your pet. Or if you are in a school or reading situation, it could be many little hands all grabbing at your animal at the same time.

With hand-over-hand guided petting, even grabebrs can enjoy your animal
With hand-over-hand guided petting, even grabebrs can enjoy your animal

Whatever the reason, in the Pet Partners Workshop, various techniques are taught to block and reposition a grabber’s hand.

If the animal is small, simply lifting the animal away or into a safer position might suffice. For a larger dog, guiding the animal to a safer distance and position will work.

Grabbers can become gentle over time
Grabbers can become gentle over time

Always keep in mind the safety of the client as well, as well as the importance of touch for the clients.

Never push their hands away, but guide and reposition. In many instances, simply by taking the person’s hand in your own will provide that essential touch while keeping your animal safe.

Teach children how to be gentle
Teach children how to be gentle

Once a grabber has been identified future visits can be structured in a way to avoid any harm to your animal or stress on the client.

And some grabbers over time can change this behavior with patience, continued hand-over-hand assisted petting and trust.

This could be the perfect opportunity to teach gentleness, kindness, slow motion petting and the success of positive touch.