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What Are Therapy Dogs?

by Wayne Booth

posted in Pets

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If you're a dog owner, then you're already aware of the incredible benefits a loyal and loving pet can bring to your life. But did you know it's possible to have a 'therapy dog', which is specifically provided to help you recover from injury, illness, and mental health struggles? In this guide, we're going to talk about therapy dogs and why they are so beneficial - so let's begin.
First, the concept of using a dog to assist with someone's therapy is actually quite an old idea, which originally occurred during the second world war. Since this time, the concept has really flourished, and now dogs are providing some of the best 'therapy' anyone could ever have.
Research has conclusively shown that owning a therapy dog will have a positive effect on certain elements of brain chemistry. For example, several important neurotransmitters such as oxytocin (which makes you feel connected to others) and dopamine (which makes you feel rewarded) are positively influenced when you spend time with a therapy dog.
What's more, studies have shown that there's a noticeable and significant decrease of cortisol levels, too. This means people with therapy dogs experience far less stress in life. The benefits of this quickly become obvious, especially for people who feel lonely, or have experienced some degree of trauma in their life, regardless of how it was initially caused.
However, it's important to make some distinctions here to fully understand the purpose of these dogs. It's worth pointing out that therapy dogs are different from service or assistance dogs, and they aren't trained in the same way as a 'guide dog' or similar. They also don't qualify as service dogs when it comes to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But it's reassuring to know that the use of these dogs is on the rise - and in 2014, the Concordia University of Wisconsin decided to adopt a therapy dog full time. This well loved campus dog is there to interact, comfort, and reassure anyone who is feeling stressed out by some of the difficulties people face during university - and this dog, called Zoey, has been very welcome indeed.
Overall, the concept of having a therapy dog is grounded in real scientific research, as well as real life experience. If you're the kind of person who loves dogs, then you probably already know the many benefits they can provide - and now you have science on your side to back you up! If you know anyone who could benefit from a dog, then be sure to let them know.
About the Author: Wayne Booth is owner of Canine Behavior Specialists, in Nashville, TN where he helps people train their dogs and solve behavior problems. Wayne has been teaching people how to become Professional Dog Trainers since 1990 and he is the Training Director of the Canine Behavior Specialists Network,
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