Dogs have been a human’s best friend for thousands of years. Originally, they provided support to hunters and latterly shepherds. In more modern times, they have helped the blind to become more mobile, with the first seeing eye dog starting its duty in 1928. They can now assist the police and other emergency services as well. However, dogs are not just a tool for physical labor. They can also provide emotional support to the lonely, including the elderly or socially anxious. These canines are known as Therapy Dogs and they’ve been providing a wealth of health benefits for many years now.
Who Can Use a Therapy Dog?
Anyone who can find benefit in spending time with a dog should aim to do so. This includes people who are suffering from social isolation, particularly the elderly who are at risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.
There have even been initiatives to help young children with their reading and writing by using the comforting presence of a dog. Therapy dogs are taken into classrooms and will sit attentively while children try to “teach” the dog how to read. In reality, it is the kids who are learning to read at a faster rate than if the dog hadn’t been there.
For those with mental conditions such as depression or anxiety, a dog can make a world of difference. Having a dog in your home will release tension in the muscles and lower blood pressure, simply by allowing yourself to stroke, pet and play with them, therefore combatting stress. Dogs provide non-judgemental love and give their owners a sense of purpose and responsibility. This is an extremely effective motivator for those with depression who struggle to find meaning.
Where to Start
If you have serious problems with everyday movement, firstly make sure your house is mobility friendly. This may involve installing wider doors or a stair lift if it is becoming increasingly difficult to access other levels of the house.
If possible, adopt a pet of your own. The loyalty and caring nature of dogs makes them the perfect pet. By adopting from a local shelter, a traumatised and anxious dog will have a new free and happy life in your care. A dog with its own emotional problems may seem appealing because it allows owner and pet to help each other and heal together.
If you are unable to own a pet for yourself, search around for the right charity program to suit your needs. Paws & Think offers therapy dogs to help with behaviorally and academically challenged students. There is also help available for children or adults who have gone through other emotional trauma such as bereavement. Paws & Think offers pet services for people of all ages, who need therapy for a wide variety of reasons.
Written by Lucy Wyndham