Previously we learned about the history of how dogs evolved with humans side by side, the ways in which dogs show unconditional love and the numerous benefits a dog’s love and companionship offer to our general health and well-being.
- We will go beyond the benefits that life with dogs provides individual families in their homes.
- We will look into real-world examples of how dogs help those most in need of affection but also a few things that we can learn from our furry companions, among other things.
The Therapeutic Companion
We previously made a brief mention of the therapeutic effect that a dog’s love can have on their owner and immediate family but this goes well
beyond that in many cases. Namely, the positive effects that affectionate and loving dogs can have on people are so profound that many canines find themselves fulfilling the role of therapy dogs.
This isn’t just a jargon term for dogs that are particularly good at bonding with humans either. These dogs are trained to provide solace and comfort to those people who are in need of such interaction.
- Such individuals include a wide range of folks such as seniors in retirement and nursing homes as well as others in hospitals, schools, and hospices.
- People who suffer from disorders such as autism, clinical depression, and various forms of anxiety have also been found to benefit from therapy dogs.
The practice is rooted as recently as 1976 when it was first implemented by a nurse called Elaine Smith who perceived the effects of dogs on her patients as immensely positive. Therapy dogs became increasingly popular during the 1980s and their use continues to grow.
While these pets are often trained as actual assistance and service dogs in addition to being used in therapy, their therapeutic contribution alone doesn’t classify them as service dogs. Nonetheless, over the course of this practice’s development, numerous certified therapy dog groups and organizations have surfaced and operated with great success and at a high organizational level.
In addition to the friendliest of canines many of these organizations have in their ranks a significant number of professional employees and volunteers who accompany the dogs and add to the experience. These groups are known to use their dogs in actual therapy but many of them also bring the canines to sick children in hospitals and the elderly or terminally ill individuals in various other institutions.
As stated earlier, therapy dogs are often also trained as assistance and service dogs that can help many folks who have special needs such as the visually or otherwise impaired for instance.
Some of the most renowned organizations of this kind are Therapy Dogs International, Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Love on a Leash, and many, many others.
The Best Therapy Dog Breeds
It’s possible for all dogs to show unconditional love but as you can imagine, not all breeds excel at the specific task for therapy. To be a therapy dog, a pooch must possess certain temperamental qualities that are innate to his particular breed.
- For instance while guard dog breeds make some of the most devoted, loving family pets, the inherent suspicion toward strangers makes many of them less than ideal for therapy.
- Still the breeds that make excellent therapy canines are numerous.
A dog that started the whole thing back in 1976 was actually a Golden Retriever, and this breed remains one of the most popular therapy dogs in addition to being an overall beloved pet throughout the world, especially in the United States. Goldens are known for their intelligence and trainability but also for their equanimity and patience. Golden Retrievers, especially when well-trained are perfectly calm and composed which makes them very soothing and comforting to be around. Their love and eagerness to please are irrefutable proof that dogs are truly man’s best friend.
The famous Labrador, a close relative of the Golden Retriever, is another breed that works wonders as a therapy dog. Labs are just as trainable as Goldens but they are usually a fair bit more energetic. These canines love to go outside and play for hours on end which makes them particularly suitable for those who are prone to depression or being shut-in.
Another popular therapy dog is the big and snuggly Saint Bernard. This dog fares particularly well with children for two main reasons.
- For one, these dogs are formidable and sturdy so there is little risk that a young child could cause him injury.
- Secondly and most importantly the Bernard is protective, gentle, and incredibly patient.
There are smaller pets that make good therapy dogs too, such as Beagles and Pugs. Both of these breeds love to have fun and can get quite goofy at times which makes them very entertaining for people of all ages, especially kids.
German Shepherds may also prove to be excellent therapy dogs depending on the needs of the people they are helping. These dogs are not the friendliest toward strangers but they are ranked among the top three most intelligent breed which makes them incredibly versatile and responsive to training. As a matter of fact, if a personalized tailored approach is needed, the German Shepherd may turn out to be the ideal choice.
These are only a few of the most popular and successful therapy dog breeds out there but there are plenty of others. Ultimately if you personally want to brighten up your life with a long-term canine companion, the special bond that can be formed will have a therapeutic effect on you no matter the breed.
Learning Life Lessons from Dogs
As you have seen, life with dogs is an enriched existence that yields many benefits, including those that concern your health. And while it may not
seem like that at first glance, there is also a lot of wisdom to be drawn from dogs. Dogs may lack the capacity for mathematics, rocket science, or understanding that shoes are not food but the way they live and conduct themselves can teach us a whole lot.
- One of the most important lessons dogs teach us is to appreciate fun and enjoy the smaller pleasures in life and not just to be humble but because these small pleasantries are so frequent and abundant with opportunity for happiness.
- We shouldn’t forget how to play or have fun whatever our personal idea of play might be. The way dogs experience so much joy and satisfaction from apparently frivolous and mundane things in life is truly something to behold.
Perhaps most pertinent to our human lives is that we should pay attention to how dogs treat their human loved ones. The way dogs show
unconditional love to their people by always running to greet them is something many people put too little emphasis on in their daily life. We often forget to fully express how much our loved ones mean to us and remember it only when it’s too late. Dogs don’t have this problem.