If you grew up with a dog, you’ll remember what it was like to have a 24/7 companion SoundCloud Mobile. Always happy to see you, overjoyed to go for a walk and content to lie with you when you had flu – your dog was the best!
Dogs and humans: we really are a good match, and we’ve been sharing our space for thousands of years. What started out as a working partnership for hunting has changed over time to include everything from sheep dogs to cute Yorkies getting selfied for Instagram! But dogs have got a new job for a new millennium: enter, the therapy dog.
What are therapy dogs?
A therapy dog is not the same as a service or assistance dog – an example of service dogs would be guide-dogs for the sight impaired, and they’ve been used for that valuable job since 1931! Therapy dogs are trained to give comfort and affection to people with specific needs. Some situations where therapy dogs may be used:
- retirement homes
- nursing homes
- disaster areas
- for people on the autism spectrum
- for children battling emotional and speech disorders
In the US, some colleges bring therapy dogs onto campuses to help students de-stress. Also, some dentists specialising in children, use therapy dogs to comfort their patients, helping them to sit still during treatment.
Are specific dog breeds used?
No, a therapy dog can be any breed, but it does have to have certain qualities:
- A patient temperament – it can’t be an excitable dog that needs a lot of hard exercise
- A friendly disposition – being exposed to different people and situations during a working day, a therapy dog must be comfortable with meeting new people
- A gentle nature – it must enjoy being handled and petted
Fluffy and Patches are therapy heroes
Therapy dogs and their handlers are trained, but a dog with the right temperament doesn’t have to go through very complicated paces to do the job. It turns out that just having a warm, accepting and friendly dog around can help with pain, loneliness, fear or anxiety. The physical effects can mean lower blood pressure, less medication and faster healing. For children battling with speech or learning disabilities, therapy dogs can even encourage them to start talking, focus and socialising.
So, go Patches! What a good dog!
Joanne Hart for HelloDoctor.com