Therapy Dogs – The Different Types and Their Benefits
A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and a sense of comfort to individuals in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas. Research suggests that interactions with therapy dogs can increase oxytocin levels (responsible for bonding) and dopamine (responsible for happiness) while lowering levels of cortisol (that comes from stress).
There are three different types of therapy dogs:
- The first (and most common) are “Therapeutic Visitation” dogs. These dogs are household pets whose owners take time to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities. These dogs help individuals who have to be stuck away from home due to mental or physical illness. A visit from a visitation dog can brighten their day, lift their spirits, and help motivate them in their therapy or treatment with the goal of going home.
- The second type of therapy dog is called an “Animal Assisted Therapy” dog. These dogs assist physical and occupational therapists in meeting goals important to an individual’s recovery. Some tasks that these dogs can help to achieve include gaining motion in limbs, fine motor control, and hand-eye coordination. Animal Assisted Therapy dogs typically work in rehabilitation facilities.
- The last type of therapy dog is called a “Facility Therapy Dog.” These dogs primarily work in nursing homes and are often trained to help keep patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other mental illness from getting into trouble. They are handled by a trained member of the staff and live at the facility.
Therapy dogs must:
- Be well tempered
- Not shed excessively
- Well socialized (exposed to many environments)
- Love to cheer others up!
There also exist, service animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or another animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, they are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether or not they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers.
Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for themselves. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities.
Some examples include:
- Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.
- Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.
- Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.
- A service animal is not a pet.
When Feinberg Consulting engages with Case Management Services, we look at the entire spectrum of available resources and match the most beneficial to our clients. Sometimes, that may mean a visit from man’s best friend.