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Understanding the Purpose of a Therapy Dog


These days, specially trained animals are used to provide support to people with all kinds of physical, mental and emotional issues. These animals can help people to overcome the difficulties that their disabilities cause or just provide comfort or support during difficult times. They enable people to lead a happier and more independent life. Dogs often make the best support animals, as they are intelligent and easy to train. Therapy dogs, as their name suggests, are much like their human namesakes, and can be a huge benefit in the lives of people in need of company or affection.

What is a Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs are trained to provide support and affection for children and adults who are experiencing difficult times in their lives. They are often taken into schools, hospitals and nursing homes where they boost the morale of the people they visit and provide often much-needed joy and attention. Unlike emotional support animals (personal pets that provide companionship to people with mental or emotional disabilities), therapy dogs receive specialized training in order to provide companionship to a wider range of people. As experts at say, “Multiple people get to experience their love and care, not just one.” As therapy dogs do not belong to one person, the dogs are not classed as assistance animals but do still require to be legally certified as therapy animals. Therapy dogs can be used to help people with a wide range of disorders like PTSD, autism, and anxiety and also to provide company for people who are lonely or sick.

The Process of Becoming a Therapy Dog 

Almost any dog can become a therapy dog as long as it is able to complete the required training and passes the necessary tests. The most important qualities for a therapy dog are a calm and happy temperament and good discipline. Therapy dogs will be introduced to a wide range of people with a wide range of needs and so they must be patient, cheerful and attentive. In order to complete the training process and pass the certification test, therapy dogs must demonstrate obedience to their handlers, patience around strangers and also calmness around other dogs.

What Breeds of Dog are Most Suitable to Become Therapy Dogs? 

There are many different dog breeds that can become excellent therapy animals. Whether big or small, the most important thing is that the dog shows the correct temperament and is comfortable and affectionate around humans. As different people love different sizes and dog breeds, it is ideal to use a range of breeds for therapy dog services.

Therapy Dogs in Schools 

Therapy dogs are taken into schools to help children with a variety of social and emotional issues. One area where a therapy dog is very useful is to help children who have reading difficulties. A child who is too nervous to read aloud to the other students in the class will instead read to the dog. This helps the child to build confidence and develop their reading skills as they are able to read to a non-judgemental audience. Just playing with the dog can relieve symptoms of anxiety and can greatly improve the child’s happiness at school.

Therapy Dogs in Nursing Homes and Hospitals

Therapy dogs are often taken into nursing homes and hospitals to spend time with the residents. It is usually not possible for people entering nursing homes and hospitals to take their pets with them, so the experience of playing with a therapy dog is a welcome one. It can help residents to deal with feelings of loneliness, or to alleviate any anxiety that they might have about their treatments or illness. This uplift in mood has been shown to greatly enhance both the residents’ quality of life, as well as their reaction to treatment and rehabilitation.

Therapy Dogs Provide Emotional and Mental Support

Therapy dogs can also be used to help people with a variety of serious emotional and mental issues and disorders. There are dogs that are specially trained to help people with autism and others that help people to cope with the symptoms of PTSD. After the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, for example, therapy dogs were taken into the school to provide comfort to the students and teachers. 

It is perhaps the unconditional and non-judgemental love that animals show that is leading more and more people to lean on them for emotional support. These animals not only unburden the lives of the people they meet but can also help to unburden understaffed or under-resourced healthcare systems. In the future, it seems certain that the number of therapy animals is only going to increase.

One thought on “Understanding the Purpose of a Therapy Dog

  1. I must say as a dog owner, I love my dogs. They make me feel good. And I time is the relax me. It really works.

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