Dogs in Therapy

Benefits of Dogs

An Ice Breaker!

Therapy is intimidating and can definitely be awkward in the beginning, bringing in a furry friend can help alleviate that sense of awkwardness and allow for a more calming experience. Whether it’s holding, petting, or just sitting next to a dog it can be a great supplement to the therapeutic process. Dogs help anxiety and can be a relaxing presence in session.

Happy Hormones!

Studies have shown that dog lovers have an increase in dopamine and serotonin when using animal therapy. The release of these happy hormones can allow you to feel more comfortable in session. If you come in having a rough day, a friendly (dog) face can help you leave the session feeling less anxious or upset.

Less Stress!

Whether you are a student, working in a stressful environment, or are handling a lot on your plate, dogs can alleviate some of the stress by providing a distraction from your day. The “happy hormones” discussed earlier will keep the calming effect lasting throughout the day.


Where to Find Therapeutic Dogs?

  1. Your own dog! When participating in Zoom sessions, having your own dog in session is welcomed. Bring them in and have them on your lap, at your feet, or by your side, whatever makes you comfortable. Dogs are more intuitive than you know, and your own dog knows you better than anyone. Don’t underestimate the effect your personal dog can have in the therapeutic process.
  2. Therapy Dog Service! In the past decade, therapy dog popularity has surged. Luckily for us, that has resulted in clubs opening specifically for therapy dogs. These organizations train dogs with the correct temperament to soothe humans and be good emotional support. These organizations go to colleges for finals week, businesses for stress relief, and even hospitals. Reaching out to these organizations and seeing when their next event is or how to interact with their dogs can be a great resource for you if you don’t have a dog of your own.

Tasks Therapy Dogs Can Be Taught

Psychiatric Service Dogs are trained for an individual with a mental health disability, but some of the tasks they are taught can be taught to your dog or therapy dogs to offer additional support while you are home or out in dog friendly places. It is important to not that to teach your dogs these tasks they must have a strong base of obedience already or the tasks will not stick.

  1. Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT): This is one way dogs help with anxiety, OCD, and panic disorder. With this type of therapy the dog will law on your legs or torso to create a comforting feeling of pressure, similar to the feeling we get with a weighted blanket. This pressure will calm our anxiety in time, can distract from OCD compulsive behaviors, and avert a panic attack.
  2. Light Pressure Therapy (LPT): Similar to DPT, this involves pressure but in a subtle way, this could even just be your dog leaning against your legs or laying on your foot in public.
  3. Crying Redirection: Mental health dogs can be trained to comfort you while you cry, for example, if your hands are up to your face while you are crying they would come use their nose to pull your hands away from your face. This is a way to help you regulate your emotions and redirect you.
  4. Crowd Control: If you suffer from social anxiety or don’t do well in crowds, training your pup to stand between your legs when you are not moving or walk in circles around you on command can help create distance between you and the crowd, alleviating your anxiety.

Dogs That Offer Emotional Support Are Not Service Dogs!

It is important to note the difference between emotional support dogs, therapy dogs, and service dogs.

  1. Emotional Support Dogs: ESA’s can be any dog, whether it is trained or not, that offers a sense of emotional comfort to their owner. They are not trained to provide any service or task to their owner.
  2. Therapy Dogs: Therapy dogs are trained to soothe others and normally act in a comforting manner. As mentioned above, these types of dogs are taken to hospitals, work spaces, and schools to offer comfort and to destress a stressful environment. Although these dogs have incredible temperaments and are trained well, they do not perform tasks for their owner.
  3. Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSA): These dogs have great temperament, are extremely well trained in obedience, and are trained to perform a specific task for their owner. PSA’s can aid those suffering from anxiety, depression, OCD, panic disorder, etc. by performing tasks. Some of these tasks could be deep pressure therapy, compulsion interruption, and alerting to heightened heart rate. PSA’s can be personally or professionally trained and are held to the highest standard.

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