It is never surprising that an animal is used as therapy, especially when it comes to dogs. The majority of people become relaxed once they get to interact with the fluffy animal, and immediately feel at ease.
Whilst dogs can be trained to be a service animal to provide medical assistance to their owner, or they can be recognized officially as an emotional support animal, they can also be used to provide therapy to people.
This is because they can help to relieve symptoms of stress and provide a person with relaxation and the feeling of being calm.
To put it simply, a therapy dog has been trained to provide a person with alleviation when it comes to coping with a symptom of a condition.
Whilst any animal can be considered to be used for therapy, one of the most common is a dog. In this article we shall look at why a therapy dog is important, and how they can help with the likes of mental health and motivation.
How Does A Therapy Dog Work?
Usually a therapy dog is owned by a person who volunteers themselves and their pet as somebody who will help people or a person.
The therapy the dog provides is all to do with the condition they are targeting, but most of the time it is to help with mental health.
The dog does this by helping to provide some comfort to the person, which can help to reduce pain. This can be great for those who are suffering with PTSD , for example.
However, a therapy dog can also be used to motivate those who are struggling with activities and perhaps interacting with other people, such as children in a classroom.
Alongside this, a therapy dog can help with those who have behavioral and social issues, and perhaps are struggling with development.
Lastly, a therapy dog can work with those who have mobility issues too, or who struggle with their motor skills. They can provide some fun and reassurance to people.
So, how exactly does the process work? The dog’s owner will bring their pet to a session, perhaps in a school or hospital, and will work under guidance (usually from a doctor) to help a person who is struggling with a condition.
How Does A Dog Become Used For Therapy?
Whilst a handler can be a volunteer, there are times when an organization may train people to become therapy dog handlers.
However, to become a therapy dog handler or a dog that is trained to do such a thing, every person has to go through the same process.
A dog cannot just be used for therapy, so needs to go through training first before they can be approved.
They also need to have checks on their own health and immunization first, alongside physical exams to make sure they are not carrying any diseases.
They will then have to be put through tests to check their temperament, as well as go through a course of obedience training.
This rigorous process provides them with the knowledge that they have exactly what they need to become a therapy dog.
The healthcare providers also know that the dog meets the needs of what a therapy dog entails, without being worried that the dog may lash out or cause issues for the patient.
It also shows that each session can be professional too with the patient receiving the best care possible.
Once trained, they are then connected to a healthcare provider who puts them in touch with those who need the help from a therapy dog.
What People Benefit From A Therapy Dog?
Using a dog for therapy has benefits for many people, but especially those who suffer with mental health.
This is because it has been known that dogs can help to reduce stress and decrease anxiety, relieve feelings of pain, and help with social interaction and motivation.
It can also help in other areas too, such as autism, dementia, ADHD, epilepsy, during cancer treatment, heart failure and major health recovery such as stroke.
Therapy dogs can provide comfort and a feeling of ease, and lift the mood of people who might be struggling. However, despite all this, there does need to be more studies conducted to find out even more about how therapy dogs can help.
Are There Any Risks Involved With A Therapy Dog?
Even though dog therapy is becoming more common now than ever before, it still doesn’t suit every person, just like with other forms of therapy.
However, this could also be because a person may be allergic to dogs, or perhaps even afraid of dogs.
If they are afraid or feel very uncomfortable around dogs, then this will only make a person more stressed and it will be the exact opposite of what the therapy is supposed to do.
Another risk is the possibility of a person becoming too attached to the animal, and then them not feeling like the therapy is working. Also, a dog may carry a disease and spread it around in a hospital, for example.
However, tests are carried out so there is minimal risk of this actually happening, though it can never be 100% avoided.
Are There Certain Breeds Who Can Be Therapy Dogs?
Because dogs go through extensive training to become used in therapy, most breeds can be a therapy dog. However, there are a few that are picked out such as the friendly and sociable Golden Retriever.
However, dog breeds such as Labradors, Poodles and St. Bernards are great choices too. Basically, the best breeds are those who are social, and can handle strangers well.
Smaller dogs are best for places that are going to be small, as a big dog will be too intimidating, as well as take up too much room. These can be Pomeranians, or even Mini Poodles.
Overall, the dog needs to have a temperament that is easy going. This is so they will not snap and bark at a person, or bite unexpectedly. When they are trained, they are tested with loud bangs and odd noises to see how they will react.
They are also tested to see how they react if they are grabbed all of a sudden, or how well they behave around equipment such as walking canes and wheelchairs.
If they stay calm and focused, then they are well on their way to becoming a therapy dog.
How To Get A Therapy Dog?
If you are seeking to find help from a therapy dog, then there are a few ways to go about it. The most common way is to be referred by a therapist or a doctor who thinks that you could benefit from dog therapy.
You can also search online to find a local organization that provides therapy dogs to those who could benefit from using their service.
If you are looking to have your dog trained to become a service dog, then you will want to search Google ‘therapy dog training near me’.
There should be plenty of opportunities too, however, do keep in mind that if your dog isn’t suitable, then it will not become a therapy dog.
How Are Therapy Dogs Different To An Emotional Support Dog?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is very different to one that is used in therapy.
Whilst a dog which is used in therapy takes place in a controlled environment under the supervision of a healthcare worker to target a specific condition, an emotional support dog is usually somebody’s pet.
You can register your pet dog as emotional support to help with mental health, for example. They are there to provide constant companionship, as well as alleviate depression and to give a person motivation on a day-to-day basis.
A service dog on the other hand is there to assist their owner full-time on contacting emergency services if their owner falls or needs help, or to be their eyes and ears if their owner is blind.
There really are many different ways a dog can help a person in need, whether that is physically or mentally.
Final Thoughts On A Therapy Dog
Using a therapy dog is important because it can help numerous people who are suffering from both mental and physical issues.
The dogs are fully trained after going through rigorous tests to ensure that they are suitable to help people in need.
A professional, such as a therapist or doctor may request that a person seeks help via a therapy dog. However, the end result is different for everyone, just in the same way having regular therapy is.
If you do get asked if you would like to try animal therapy, there is a chance that you will not like it, or that it will not work for you, and that’s okay. You can always request an alternative type of therapy, but it might be worth a try!