How therapy dogs can help ill or depresses people improve
Every year, there is a growing number of dogs and their owners which join the “therapy dog” movement, and choose to take the dogs to various hospitals, shelters, mental health centers, nursing homes and on the spot where a tragedy has occurred. The reason is that there is actual evidence of the therapy dogs improving the physical and psychological condition of people.
Of course, therapy dogs need to be well trained as well as friendly and patient with strangers. These friendly pups are especially helpful for older people and those with no families or who have fewer visitors in the hospital or nursing home.
The therapy dog can help the friends and relatives of the patients as well by calming them down and taking the tension of waiting or needing to deal with the illness of a close one.
Dogs are perfect to calm just about anybody, because they are not prejudiced either by the color of the skin or the condition of the people they are visiting.
While most therapy dogs visit the people with their owners, there are some special therapy dogs which are trained by professionals to assist people with various problems and help them improve their mobility or their memory for example. Like guide dogs these are working dogs.
There are national therapy dog associations, such as Therapy Dogs International and the Delta Society, which look for and evaluate potential therapy dogs. The ones approved are registered as such. But their owners and handlers are also instructed to watch for signs of stress in the dogs, so that they don’t overburden the dogs with their therapy work.
The therapy dog associations and experts always make sure that the dog is actually enjoying the job before approving it for the therapy programs.
The POOCH organization claims to have found correlation between the dog visits and the condition of the patients, such as slower hear rates or lower pain levels recorded following the visits by the friendly dogs.
A study has found that therapy dog visits can reduce the loneliness in elderly people in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The patients surveyed also said that they have always liked pets and would still like to get new pets, so it is not clear if the therapy dogs can help people who actually have never liked dogs.
But the 45 people who were surveyed in accordance to the UCLA loneliness scale before and following the therapy dog visits were found to be significantly better and less lonely after six weeks of the dog assisted therapy, as compared to the other group which did not get visits.
But how do the dogs actually help people?
This study revealed that the dogs helped remind the elderly people of the joys of having a loveable pet and taking care of it.
The National Geographic channel has a special series called Dogs With Jobs which shows the details of the life of therapy and other working dogs, and the bonds they have with their owners and the patients.