How do therapy dogs help with mental health

Therapy dogs are pets that improve your health by giving emotional support. You can train your dog to be a therapy dog to provide support to yourself and to others.

Therapy dogs live in people’s homes. They can also visit a variety of settings, including retirement or nursing homes, schools, hospice homes, and hospitals. They are trained to be gentle and friendly and to accept strangers hugging them or petting them. They are patient and unbothered by children who tug at their fur or adults who want the smaller ones to sit in their laps.

Therapy dogs are just one type of therapy animal. Other pets that can be used for emotional support are cats, rabbits, birds, horses—even llamas and alpacas.

Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs

You may have also heard of service dogs, but they’re different from therapy dogs.

  • Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks on behalf of their owners. They receive rigorous, high-end, task-oriented training aimed specifically at helping their owners cope with disabilities. There are laws set forth by the Americans With Disabilities Act that allow these dogs to accompany their owners in public places.



  • Therapy dogs are sometimes called “comfort dogs.” They support a person’s mental health by providing attention and comfort. Their sweet demeanors and unconditional love may have a therapeutic benefit to those who face difficult health challenges. Unlike service dogs, however, anyone can enjoy a therapy dog.

Therapy dogs (or emotional support animals) are not covered by the ADA. As a result, they don’t have the same privileges for accompanying their owners in restricted public places unless special permission is provided ahead of time. The therapy pet must be invited to the premises to provide some positive comfort therapy.

How Therapy Dogs Can Boost Your Health

Some mental health challenges and psychiatric disorders are known to respond well to therapy dogs. Patients diagnosed with a range of issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Alzheimer’s disease, benefit from their interaction with therapy dogs and other companion animals.

Sometimes, emotional challenges are the result of physical health problems, and therapy dogs can help with those too. Research suggests that patients who are recovering from difficult surgery or a bad accident who participate in animal-assisted therapy may feel less pain. Studies have shown that such interactions can increase the mood-boosting hormone oxytocin and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.

What Kind of Dogs Can Be Therapy Dogs?

Any friendly breed of dog can be a therapy dog with a bit of training. Larger breeds like golden retrievers, standard poodles, St. Bernards, and Labradors are commonly used as therapy dogs. But smaller breeds like mini poodles and Pomeranians are good choices when the dog and the patient are sharing a small space.

The dog’s good demeanor may partially be a function of its breed, but it’s mostly dependent on how the dog is raised and how evenly its temperament develops. Prior to being accepted as therapy animals, dogs are tested and observed for their response to stimuli, such as loud or confusing noises, suddenly being grabbed, or even equipment, such as canes or wheelchairs.

Getting Your Own Therapy Dog 

If you would like to learn more about finding a therapy dog to help yourself or a loved one, there are a number of directories online. Do an online search for “therapy dog” and the name of your city or town to find individuals and organizations near you.

If you’re interested in learning about training your dog to be a therapy dog or visiting nursing homes or other facilities with your pet, do a web search for “therapy dog training” and the name of your city or town to see what opportunities are available. Or simply phone or email the facility you have in mind to learn their acceptance procedure.

The Life-Changing Benefits of Therapy Dogs in a Mental Health Institution

Generally speaking, animal-assisted therapy aims to reduce or, in some cases, assist people in coping with certain symptoms of variable circumstances. Depending on the patient’s condition, the dog breed, and the therapy type, the primary function of therapy dogs differs considerably. 

It has been scientifically proven that the relationship between therapy dogs and their owners stimulates emotional support, which is good for psychological health! Through their calming presence and companionship gained from working together, therapy dogs have assisted people in overcoming anxiety and depression. 

Therapy Dogs

The purpose of therapy animals is to improve health and quality of life. Dogs are the most popular animal used in pet therapy, although birds, cats, guinea pigs, horses, rabbits, and other animals have also been used therapeutically. These amiable, well-behaved animals serve the community through therapeutic interaction by bringing solace, happiness, and fulfillment. 

It’s significant to remember that a therapy dog and a service dog are not the same and do not share most of the same rights. For example, a therapy dog can’t enter a place of business with its handler.

How It Works

An animal therapy’s objectives can vary; how well they are achieved will rely entirely on them. The therapy type and target may change depending on the condition and the kind of assistance a person requires. Several instances include:

  • Bringing relief and lowering pain intensity

  • Enhancing your motor skills

  • Developing cognitive, behavioral, and social skills

  • Stimulating motivation for pursuits like exercise or social interaction

Owners, or animal handlers, bring their charges to each session as part of the standard protocol for animal therapy. Each handler works under the doctor’s supervision, assisting the person in achieving therapeutic objectives.

Many institutions provide handlers, who are volunteers, with training, and integration with healthcare professionals. Both the animal and the handler must complete various certification processes with these workgroups before receiving approval for use in therapeutic interventions.

Additionally, therapy dogs must pass several inspections, and owners must pass a training session on communicating with people and delivering the various therapies they might offer. These will entail verifying their immunization history and conducting physical examinations, ensuring it’s generally healthy and disease-free.

Ensuring appropriate actions around the handler and other people needs behavioral and emotional screening. Both will also go through obedience training. Access to the best therapy sessions is possible, and the stringent testing and certification process guarantees the competence and security of everyone involved.

A Range of Health Benefits

Therapy dogs may benefit individuals with various conditions and from a wide range of age groups.

Mental Health

Since then, more information about the link between pets and mental health has come to light. Programs that incorporate animals into therapy have consequently grown to be essential parts of mental health care.

Correspondingly, interacting with therapy dogs lowers cortisol, a stress hormone, and enhances the body’s natural stress-reduction chemical oxytocin release. This explains the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy. Strolling around with a therapy dog also decreases blood pressure due to its sensory act. According to studies, dogs can indeed help calm hyperactive or aggressive kids.

For instance, a pet’s setup and training regime may benefit people diagnosed with ADHD. It may benefit them to manage a therapy dog’s roles and responsibilities in all areas of their lives. This includes tracking the time to feed or walk them at the appropriate times.

Ownership of therapy dogs can be advantageous for people diagnosed with autism. Therapy dogs offer the kind of kindness and compassion that can foster self-confidence and social skills. If their owner is stressed out, they can offer comfort and affirmation.

More importantly, autistic children with sensory impairments can incorporate therapy dogs in sensory integration activities, and it helps them get by how something smells, feels, or sounds.

Enhances Social Connection

Therapy dogs empower socially isolated individuals. Building relationships with peers is simpler for people who own therapy dogs. Additionally, therapy dogs boost emotional growth since they are particularly sensitive to their owners’ emotional states, mimicking human cues. Social interaction has these benefits:

  • A higher self-image

  • Decreased anxiety and depression rates

  • Enhanced happy and upbeat attitude

  • Improved emotional control

  • Advanced mental capacity

  • Unparalleled faith and empathy for other people

Physical Health

Working with therapy dogs may encourage patients to continue therapy, improve their mood, and lessen pain symptoms. It might assist them in moving correctly and frequently exercising for physical conditions. Classifications of physical conditions may also benefit from certain types of therapy dogs, such as:

  • Epilepsy

  • Diabetes

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Post-surgical recovery

  • Motor skills development

  • Cancer-related pain and discomfort

  • Post-stroke recovery

Developing Healthy Habits

Daily maintenance is required for pets, and they consequently assist us in establishing wholesome routines and habits.

  • Physical exercise: Dog owners should frequently take their animals on hikes, runs, and walks

  • Spending time in nature: Walking a dog gets us outside

  • Time regulation: Having a pet is a motivation to start the day by getting up and tending to them

  • Self-care: Care of pets is a constant reminder to do the same for oneself.

A Complementary Approach

Therapy dogs should only supplement or enhance other treatments and is not a basic foundation for treating any condition. It does not replace the role and exemplary benefits of other types of therapy, such as physical or occupational therapy and psychotherapy.

Commitment Is Needed

Having a therapy dog requires serious dedication and should not be undertaken on a whim. Therapy dogs are more than just furry friends; they’re also therapy companions. It would help if you had a calm living environment, a consistent routine, resources, time, and energy. 

The Unparalleled Work of Therapy Dogs

Dopamine, a chemical crucial to experiencing pleasure, is stimulated in the brain after interacting with therapy dogs. However, not everyone may respond well to this kind of therapy. Depending on the person’s condition, these options will change.
The Alliance Of Therapy Dogs is dedicated to helping certify therapy-dog teams so that they may share this healing connection between humans and pets everywhere. We are here every day working hard, bringing goodness into the world, and doing what we can to extend some grace under pressure when needed. Call us now!

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