A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and a sense of comfort to individuals in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas.
Research suggests that interactions with therapy dogs can increase oxytocin levels (responsible for bonding) and dopamine (responsible for happiness) while lowering levels of cortisol (that comes from stress).
There is a difference between a therapy dog, and a service dog
Many people use the terms “therapy dog” and “service dog” interchangeably, but there are major differences between the two jobs.
A service dog helps individuals perform tasks they cannot do for themselves because of a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act governs the use of service dogs in public places. A service dog will often wear a vest with the wording “please do not pet,” indicating that the dog is working. Persons with disabilities are allowed to take their service dogs into public places normally prohibited to dogs, such as on public transportation, and in public buildings, stores, and restaurants.
Therapy dogs do not have federally granted legal access to the types of public areas afforded to service dogs. A therapy dog is there to be petted and provide comfort and affection to individuals at various places that request its visits. A therapy dog and his handler visit facilities such as hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, and schools. They might also visit people who have experienced a trauma in a disaster area. Therapy dogs even serve to help relieve stress in passengers at some airports and for college students taking finals at some universities. These dogs will often wear a vest or bandanna inscribed with the name of a therapy dog organization.
Therapy Dogs Must:
Be well tempered,
Not shed excessively,
Well socialized (exposed to many environments),
& Love to cheer others up!
There are three different types of therapy dogs:
Theraputic Visitation Dogs
These dogs are household pets whose owners take time to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities. These dogs help individuals who have to be stuck away from home due to mental or physical illness. A visit from a visitation dog can brighten their day, lift their spirits, and help motivate them in their therapy or treatment with the goal of going home.
Facility Therapy Dogs
These dogs primarily work in nursing homes and are often trained to help keep patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other mental illness from getting into trouble. They are handled by a trained member of the staff and live at the facility.
Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs
These dogs assist physical and occupational therapists in meeting goals important to an individual’s recovery. Some tasks that these dogs can help to achieve include gaining motion in limbs, fine motor control, and hand-eye coordination. Animal Assisted Therapy dogs typically work in rehabilitation facilities.