What is a Therapy Dog?
A therapy dog is a dog who works in a school, hospital, nursing home, retirement home, or disaster area whose job is to comfort, love, and improve the lives of the people who work or live in those facilities.
There are more than 50,000 therapy dogs in the United States and therapy dogs are gaining popularity across the globe. Therapy dogs can have a huge positive effect on human health.
Therapy dogs can be a huge help to human patients. There was a recent study where two different groups of children were to undergo general anesthesia and surgery. Therapy dogs visited one of the two groups for 20 minutes and this group of children recovered from the anesthesia more quickly than the group of children not receiving visits from therapy dogs.
How Do These Therapy Dogs Feel About Their Jobs?
Therapy dogs are typically not stressed by their jobs and they do get pleasure out of spending time with humans in these facilities to help them, comfort them, and work to improve their lives whenever possible.
Large Study on Therapy Dogs in Five US Hospitals
There was a recent study that investigated five hospitals in the United States, 26 dogs, and hundreds of human patients, the largest study in this kind of field. The scientists recorded the levels of cortisol in the therapy dogs to measure the amount of stress that these therapy dogs experienced.
The results were that there was little to no difference in the cortisol levels between the therapy dogs in the hospitals and dogs who do not work, suggesting that working in hospitals to comfort the patients and help to improve their lives did not give the therapy dogs more stress. The therapy dogs that participated in this study did not seem to dislike their jobs or want to quit their jobs to live a more normal lifestyle.
Working as a therapy dog is not for every dog as some dogs might not be cut out for it, but a big part of why the therapy dogs in this study did not experience more stress than the house dogs is that the therapy dogs were treated really well by the patients in the hospitals.
The therapy dogs were in a really strong relationship with their patients and as a result, the only extra stress the therapy dogs experienced was shared stress that the patients had. The therapy dogs only went through a bit more stress from the patients, but went through more good times with them as well.