Using Dogs For Therapy

Humans have used dogs for therapy for some time. Most people associate this with ‘therapy dogs’ used to detect specific diseases or provide early warning from certain seizures such as with diabetes. However, just owning a dog can be therapy in and of itself and can provide others with therapeutic help – so your canine companion can be a dog for therapy.

Reducing Stress And Anxiety

It has long been understood that having a dog can reduce stress and anxiety. Taking dogs for walks can help with physical and mental health. Dogs have been used to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder for some time. The charity ‘Pets As Therapy’ (PAT) uses volunteers to take dogs into care homes, hospitals, hospices, schools and prisons, with the intention of improving the health and well-being of the people in these communities. Dog ownership during Lockdown helped the owners to relax during isolation.

Dogs Are Proven Therapists

So far, the perceived advantages of using dogs as therapy have been anecdotal. Now a study from Washington State University has produced objective evidence. The study included over 300 students identified as having a “high risk of academic failure” who felt more “relaxed and accepted” following weekly hour-long sessions with professional dog handler’s animals brought into the university. Other benefits for the students included an increased ability to concentrate, learn and retain information. Students with identified mental health issues obtained the greatest benefits from these sessions.

Dogs For Therapy Now More Common

The use of therapy dogs is becoming increasingly common, with Buckingham, University College London, Cambridge, Nottingham Trent, London Metropolitan and Swansea Universities among those deploying therapy dogs. The University of Middlesex has even placed “canine teaching assistants” on its staff, to help prevent lonely students from dropping out.

For further information on PAT, see