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Animal Science

The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world. SavvyExacta is a lifelong animal enthusiast with more than 20 years of experience with horses. Freckles (an English setter) is a frequent topic on the blog. Other CR4 bloggers occasionally add great posts.

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Therapy Dogs Provide Comfort and Confidence

Posted April 26, 2013 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta
Pathfinder Tags: ANIMAL SCIENCE dogs therapy dogs

Dogs do more than guide the blind these days. Some are trained to call 911 in an emergency while others comfort the elderly and those with learning disabilities. Others still work after disaster strikes, comforting people who've been impacted by tragedy or trauma.

At least five therapy dogs were called to Boston after the Boston Marathon bombing. While this may seem to some like it's not very helpful in the wake of a tragedy, it may be that dogs respond to a traumatized person better than another human can.

Most dogs do not fear strangers and recognize when people are crying or upset and tend to nuzzle or lick that individual. The simple act of petting a dog regulates breathing, lowers blood pressure, and decreases levels of stress hormones. Both the human and the dog experience a release of the hormone oxytocin which is associated with bonding and affection.

Dogs have been attracted to humans for hundreds of years, first in the form of wolves who were interested in early human trash. As dogs were domesticated they became human companions. This account of a World War II companion-turned-therapy-dog helps with understanding the animal-human bond and how it can boost morale.

Comfort dogs have been used following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and other school shootings. They are also helpful in less critical situations, such as de-stressing students during final exams and comforting nursing home patients.

My local library has a program where kids can read to therapy dogs. The dogs' nonjudgmental attitudes help provide confidence to kids who otherwise might be too shy to read aloud to people.

There are certification programs for therapy dogs, which are not the same as those for service dogs; therapy dogs aren't covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act and aren't allowed to travel everywhere. Still, they must prove they are safe, well-trained good citizens. Therapy Dogs International and the AKC Therapy Dog Program are two well-known training programs.

Therapy dogs tend to be breeds with calm demeanors and gentle dispositions who can tolerate tugging and hysteria. Depending on the individual, just about any animal can work as a therapy animal.

Resources:

National Geographic: After the Bombing, Comfort Dogs Come to Boston

National Geographic: Therapy Dogs Seem to Boost Health of Sick and Lonely

Wikipedia - Therapy dog

Image Credit:

Time - Therapy Dogs Arrive in Boston to Comfort Survivors of Marathon Bombing

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#1

Re: Therapy Dogs Provide Comfort and Confidence

04/29/2013 12:56 AM

I understand that nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly are coming to recognize this, and to allow suitable pets.

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#2

Re: Therapy Dogs Provide Comfort and Confidence

08/28/2013 12:55 AM

All dogs are therapy dogs! It's just that most of them don't get badges.

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