03/26/2015 09:00 EDT | Updated 05/26/2015 05:59 EDT

Therapy dogs soothe patients at Victoria dental clinic

A Victoria dental clinic has come up with a way to calm jittery patients that is perhaps more gentle than knocking them out with a sedative.

Gryphon and Rigby, two old English sheepdog and poodle crossbreeds, sit with patients at InHarmony Dental Care to help calm them down before they head to the dentist chair.

"When we first opened our practice, our goal was to allow people a choice between white knuckling it and being unconscious," said Kate Darrach-Cottick in an interview with On The Island.

"We figured there had to be something in between — that you could come in and have your needs met in such a way that you would leave in a better frame of mind than when you arrived."

Darrach-Cottick says sheepdogs have the ability to differentiate between the energy emitted from a running herd of animals and their own. The idea is for Gryphon and Rigby to use that same ability to read people's energies.  

When an antsy patient comes in, Darrach-Cottick would tell the dogs to "go to work," and they would then sit by the patient. The dogs' silky soft coats and their calm demeanour help patients relax, Darrach-Cottick said.

"They may both put their heads on your lap and you would feel the weight of them," she said. "They offer that sense of grounding."

To hear the full interview with Kate Darrach-Cottick, click on the audio labelled: Victoria dental clinic puts therapy dogs to work