You have probably heard that therapy dogs can help us feel better. ‘Therapy’ is right there in the name! Maybe it’s even a familiar sight: a friendly dog, sporting a colorful scarf or vest, soaking up pets and hugs and attention from anyone nearby.
You can see therapy dogs at venues as different as college campuses, hospitals, airports, and public libraries. You can also see them at Branchlands, paying a visit at a special event or just moseying through the common spaces, spreading good vibes wherever they go.
But what exactly are therapy dogs, and what kind of benefits can our animal friends provide?
Therapy dogs are certified people lovers
While therapy dogs don’t need the same rigorous training as service dogs, they do have their very own special certification. The certification process looks for certain key traits. Our Marketing Coordinator, Ashley Wentzel, has certified her dog, and she explains what those are:
“A therapy dog can be any dog that has a good temperament, enjoys people, is well-trained, and is confident in many social settings.”
Many certifications include specific kinds of training for both the dog and its human companion but being a dog that enjoys people is really at the heart of it all. Therapy dogs have to love being around people, so that people can love being around them—and then get all the unexpected benefits those interactions provide.
They lift our moods
Studies show that being around a friendly dog helps to elevate our mood. Spending some time with a therapy dog can lower our blood pressure, lower our stress, and promote feelings of well-being.
There are complicated scientific explanations involving dopamine and other neurochemicals. The upshot is that being with them makes us feel better and healthier.
For people dealing with chronic aches and pains, there’s still another benefit: reduced pain perception. We actually feel less pain when we’re interacting with a loving dog.
They offer social support
In many ways, residents at communities like Manor House Independent Living and Linden House Assisted Living are less isolated than the average person. We have plentiful common spaces and activities, meaning many chances for social interaction.
Everyone, though, sometimes struggles to get the social interaction or support they need. Therapy dogs provide connection and companionship. They can even give us a sense of purpose. When the dog so clearly loves the attention you’re giving it, you have a purpose: to bring joy to this loving animal.
A therapy dog can also provide the perfect spark for new human relationships. As people gather around the dog, they have an easy topic of conversation, plus some time spent together to help make a new connection.
For all these reasons, therapy animals have been shown to have benefits for people living with a wide range of mental health concerns.
They fit right in at Branchlands
At Branchlands we plan several therapy dog visits each month. You can find these dedicated visits on our activities calendars (Manor House activities | Linden House activities). Therapy dogs also frequently join us to help us celebrate special events, as Lola did for our recent Fall Festival.
We’re always looking to create a warm atmosphere, one that promotes interaction, connection, and relaxation. Therapy dogs are the perfect companions for helping us achieve this purpose.