How Therapy Dogs Can Help You Feel Better
Although here at ZenCrate, we know how great a welcome home kiss from our dog can be at the end of a hard day, science now backs up the fact that therapy dogs, and even just having a dog as a pet can actually help you feel better.
This practice dates back to 1976 when a registered nurse, Elaine Smith, began implementing the systematic use of therapy dogs with her patients. She noticed the positive response to visits from her local chaplain and his Golden Retriever, and the demand for therapy dogs has continued to grow since then. Therapy dogs, in particular, are widely used to treat post traumatic stress, and help children overcome speech and emotional disorders.
Interestingly enough, there is also a scientific link to pets keeping their owners in better heart health by reducing risk factors including high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. This is mainly due to the fact that pets help us to deal with stress and recover from stress faster. Pets also help you stay more active; studies have shown that dog owners that regularly walked their dog were much less likely to be obese.
In addition, dogs help with emotional support, especially after the loss of a friend or family member. Dogs are a great companion to help overcome loneliness, worry, and fear. For many people, especially the elderly population, relationships with their pets may be the primary relationship in their lives.
So what happens in our brain when we see or pet our dogs? When we interact with our pets, oxytocin levels rise in both species. Oxytocin is a hormone that aids in social bonding, and is also released post labor when a mother is making first contact with her new baby. This explains that “Awwwww” moment you feel when you see a puppy, or your dog cuddles up to you on the couch.
If your dog aspires to be a therapy dog one day, the AKC has a list of criteria that they need to meet, and helps walk you through the process of certifying your pet. Therapy dogs can then volunteer at retirement homes, schools, and hospitals to help people coping with traumatic or stressful situations. It’s important to note that Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs are very different, so make sure you know the difference!
Want to share how your pet has helped you through a stressful situation? We would love to hear about it!