Therapy Dogs and Mental Health Benefits
Therapy dogs and mental health benefits go hand-in-hand.
Therapy dogs have become increasingly popular in facilities such as college campuses, airports, hospitals, home visits, and more venues. There are several reasons for this but one of the major factors is the positive impact therapy dogs have on mental health.
Therapy Dogs Reduce Stress Levels
Stress can take a toll on our minds and body. It can cause muscle tension, affect our sleep patterns, increase blood pressure, and feelings of negativity and frustration. Stress also increases the risk of serious health concerns such as heart disease and diabetes.
Studies have shown that petting a therapy dog can help lower cortisol levels, which is the primary hormone associated with stress. Additionally, interacting with a therapy dog can increase the production of oxytocin, a hormone linked with feelings of comfort and contentment.
Therapy Dogs Make Us Feel Less Alone
Therapy dogs are rooting for you! They want to help comfort humans. Our canine friends offer non-judgmental companionship and can have a calming effect on our moods. They also make people feel less physically alone, especially those who live away from loved ones.
Therapy Dogs Keep Us In The Present
Therapy dogs can benefit mental health by keeping us in the present moment. Petting a dog can provide a mental distraction for those experiencing anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental illnesses. Temporary relief can be found by focusing on the physical sensations during the interaction.
Therapy Dogs Can Give Us A Positive Outlook
Positive thinking is a concept used in different methods of treating mental health conditions, and therapy dogs can play a role. Whether it’s their cute demeanor or the way they show unconditional love, therapy dogs increase feelings of happiness, provide social support and promote a sense of hope and trust, which can have long-term benefits on mental health.
Interested in learning more about therapy dogs and mental health? Read our article on the history of therapy dogs for depression.
Visit our about page to learn more about our organization. If you’re looking to volunteer with your dog or are a facility requesting a visit from a therapy dog, please contact the ATD office.
featured image courtesy of ATD member Christina Orlikowski