Therapy Dogs Are Not Just For The Visually Impaired Anymore
Most people are aware that therapy dogs are often used to assist visually impaired people. They may not be aware that therapy dogs are now used to help people in a variety of different situations, from those with physical problems to those with emotional issues.
What Is A Therapy Dog?
A therapy dog is defined as a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, and hospices as well as to people with learning difficulties and those dealing with stressful situations, such as disaster areas.
Research suggests that interactions with therapy dogs can increase oxytocin levels which are responsible for bonding, and dopamine levels, responsible for happiness, while lowering levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
Three Common Types Of Therapy Dogs
We will go through several types of therapy dogs to make you more familiar with them.
1. Therapeutic Visitation Dogs
These dogs are often people’s household pets that they volunteer and bring to hospitals, nursing homes, or rehabilitation centers. Therapeutic visitation dogs help people who have been confined in a medical facility for long periods of time due to a physical or emotional issue. These visits are intended to boost morale and speed up the person’s recovery.
2. Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs
These dogs help in assisting physical and occupational therapists in meeting benchmarks deemed important to an individual’s recovery. Some tasks that these dogs achieve include gaining motion in limbs, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. Animal Assisted Therapy dogs typically work exclusively in rehabilitation facilities.
3. Facility Therapy Dogs
These types of dogs primarily work in nursing homes. They are often trained to help keep patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other mental illnesses from getting into trouble due to diminished capacities.
Characteristics Needed In Therapy Dogs:
- Don’t shed excessively
- Well socialized in many environments
- Cheer others up
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal trained to aid a person with a disability.
If they meet these conditions, they are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by any state or local government. Some service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some are licensed or certified and have identification papers.
Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that a person with a disability cannot perform themselves. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by the blind.
While these are the service animals most people are familiar, there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities:
- Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds
- Pulling wheelchairs
- Carrying and picking up things for people with mobility issues
- Assisting persons with mobility issues with balance and coordination
- A service animal is not a pet in the typical sense
Therapy and service dogs are becoming an invaluable resource for people with physical and emotional maladies to assist, not only in day-to-day physical activities, but coping emotionally with their condition as well.