As pet-owners it’s not hard to see how dogs often have a huge positive influence on the lives of humans. A dog can be your personal trainer, your child, your biggest cheerleader, and your best friend. It’s no surprise, then, that over the past few years there has been a huge spike in dogs being used as emotional support and therapy animals. While dogs have been trained as service animals for many years, people are also beginning to take notice of the mental health benefits that dogs provide their humans.
There are many ways that dogs are now being used as therapy animals without being registered service dogs, with one of the most prominent being as emotional support pets. These are animals that are registered by their owners as necessary to their mental health in public spaces that pets would typically not be allowed – they are also allowed to live in non-pet-friendly buildings without any additional permits or charges. Emotional support dogs are often used to help their owners if they suffer from such things as anxiety disorders, panic disorders, depression, phobias, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Emotional Support dogs have been making huge differences in their owners’ lives as they have been proving that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that they are prime candidates to help humans through their hardest times.
Fortunately, therapy dogs are not limited to emotional support animals. With the therapeutic services that dogs provide just by being their fluffy friendly selves, they are often brought to places such as hospitals and nursing homes as well! Therapy dogs visit patients and residents to provide comfort, company, and even just a happy distraction. Some nursing homes will even have their own resident dogs that are taken care of by staff and volunteers so that they can provide daily support and companionship to their residents! Since hospitals can’t have resident pups running around the halls, therapy dogs are brought in to visit patients’ rooms, take pictures, say “Hi!”, and brighten up the days of dog lovers. This is especially popular in children’s hospitals, when one of the taxing things for the kids is to be away from their furry best friends. This way those who don’t have access to their own pets for emotional support, still get to experience the joy and comfort of having a dog to play with and cuddle.
This kind of initiative has also recently become very popular on university and college campuses during exam periods. Many universities, during some of the most stressful times of the year, have started bringing in therapy dogs to residences and classes in order to allow students to de-stress and unwind for an hour or two. Students from all over campus flock to the therapy dog sessions to get some much needed puppy-love and to get a bit of a distraction from all things academic. A lot of the time, once students are brought together to see the therapy dogs, they start talking and reminiscing about their own pets at home. Therapy dogs provide students with a connection to their own loved ones back in their hometowns as well as a reminder that there, amongst all of the piles of books, looming deadlines, and uncertainty, are joys in life that will always be there to put a smile on your face.
Therapy dogs, with their wagging tails and happy faces, are providing emotional support to people young and old all over the world. This ability to help people through the hardships of life is just one of the many reasons why a pup is a person’s best friend, and we here at Northern will always be thankful for the four-legged friends that make everything we do worth it.