Animals have long been recognized as a positive addition to the healing process. In hospitals, schools, and therapy settings, visits from therapy dogs have shown increased happiness, calmness, and overall maintenance of emotional well-being. Studies have also shown that therapy dogs can help decrease blood pressure and stress during their visits, as well as help provide physical benefits to muscles and joints from petting or holding a dog.
The Delta Society National Service Dog Center studied the benefits of therapy dogs and found that they can not only increase cognitive benefits, but also emotional benefits by aiding in the treatment of trauma, depression, self-esteem, and anxiety. Therapy dogs are playing an increasingly larger part in the treatment of physical and emotional difficulties, and the use of a therapy dog in hospitals, schools, and therapy practices is increasing as well.
Therapy dogs provide a break from the daily routine of illness and loneliness for clients participating in therapy. Other benefits include:
- Increase in self-reliance, sociability, and sharing in children
- Increase in coping strategies and daily living
- Prevention and reduction in symptoms of depression
- Increased relaxation aided by petting
- Decreased heart rate and blood pressure by petting and dog presence
- Presence of a dog can ease the effects of Alzheimer’s
- Increase in smiling and laughing
- Increase in hopefulness
- Comforting, appropriate physical contact and touch
- Increase in feelings of acceptance
Dr. Swing utilizes her dog Blake as a co-therapist for those who are comfortable with allowing him to participate. Blake has been working as a therapy dog since he was 10 weeks old. He completed a therapy dog internship with Dr. Swing at the Fremont Community Therapy Project and is a Certified Therapy Dog through Therapy Dogs International and Pet Partners. Blake attends all therapy sessions with Dr. Swing in her private practice and has been a phenomenal addition. Many of her clients have shown improvements in mood and affect regulation and have been able to practice having appropriate boundaries and authority with him that they have adopted in their daily life. Clients often report feeling more comfortable, safe, and secure throughout their appointment with Blake present, as he is able to provide touch, affection, and reassurance in a way that a therapist is not able to. He is extremely effective in promoting safety and relaxation to clients who experience anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder, sadness, and depression. He will sit near you so you can pet him when you are anxious, he will cuddle close to you when you are sad, and he will bring a smile to anyone’s face with his presence and happy demeanor.