Dogs have a long history of providing comfort and therapy to humans. In the face of illness and physical or emotional trauma, they can provide some much-needed comfort and attention. Patients with various chronic diseases greatly benefit from interacting with a medically trained therapy dog. Dogs understandably offer comfort and support to people with a wide variety of illnesses.
1. Help People with Disabilities
Physical disabilities – such as arthritis or paralysis – can make daily activities difficult or impossible. Therapy dogs may assist people with physical disabilities by providing a social presence and helping to promote a positive attitude toward life. Some dogs can guide visually impaired people as they navigate their environment.
2. Encourage Physical Exercise
Dogs provide the motivation needed to get their owners up and to move. Studies show that even short walks can improve anxiety, but dogs offer something more. They take the fear and frustration out of the movement. Therapy dogs can improve muscle strength in CMT patients by encouraging physical activity and providing a distraction for “downtime,” which allows the person with CMT to recover more quickly. Dogs are excited to go on walks, runs, and playtime motivating their owners to keep up with them.
3. Provide Companionship
Seniors who live alone and suffer from depression, anxiety, and loneliness often benefit from the company of a dog. These dogs make their presence known in subtle ways. They become essential parts of their owner’s routine. They will provide emotional support through companionship and comfort when needed, but they are also household friendly and do not require much interaction. Unlike human contact, dogs don’t judge or criticize; they provide unconditional love and support.
4. Reduce Stress Levels
Therapy dogs may help people cope with the stress of terminal illness or anticipation of major surgery by providing a much-needed diversion, an opportunity to express emotions they have been suppressing, and a chance to feel useful by helping others. Dogs can trigger the release of natural pain relief chemicals in humans and produce endorphins that reduce stress and anxiety.
5. Improve Communication and Social Skills
Many people who suffer from chronic illness or disease find it hard to communicate with others. They may not have the energy or motivation to make an effort, or they may feel self-conscious about how they look or act. Therapy dogs can ease their way into social situations without making them feel inadequate, rushed, or uncomfortable.
6. Enhance Safety
The presence of a therapy dog can bring great comfort and security to those with disabilities or those who may feel vulnerable. Therapy dogs provide physical Safety by monitoring for potential threats and preventing them from happening, purposefully calming situations that could lead to anger or violence, non-threateningly interrupting aggressive behavior, and reassuring the user when there is a perceived threat. Therapy dogs provide emotional support for many people suffering from chronic illness or disability. With their incredible sense of smell, dogs can easily find people who are lost or in danger.
In our busy, multi-tasked world, we constantly struggle to make room for friends and family. We don’t prioritize the importance of quality time. Therapy dogs are a great way to bring joy into our lives and remind us that there is more to life than work, school, or whatever our individual “to-do” list may be. Pets can be wonderful companions in times of stress and illness and provide their owners with a unique form of healing.