The Psychological and Physiological Effects of Using a Therapy Dog


Therapy dogs have been recognized for their ability to provide comfort, emotional support, and even physical healing. They are often used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and disaster areas to help alleviate stress and bring joy to those who need it most. This article will explore the psychological and physiological effects of using a therapy dog.

Psychological Effects

Emotional Support

One of the primary roles of a therapy dog is to provide emotional support. Interacting with a therapy dog is known to help reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. These animals offer unconditional love and companionship, which can be incredibly comforting during difficult times.

Stress Reduction

Studies have shown that interacting with a therapy dog can significantly reduce stress levels. Petting a dog triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which promotes feelings of happiness and relaxation. This is particularly beneficial in high-stress environments such as hospitals or disaster areas.

Improved Mood

Interacting with a therapy dog can also improve mood. Simply petting a dog can stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter known to help regulate mood. Leading to the increased feelings of happiness and well-being.

Increased Social Interaction

Therapy dogs can also promote social interaction. In settings like nursing homes or schools, they may serve as a catalyst for conversation and socialization. This can help individuals feel more connected and less isolated.

Physiological Effects

Lower Blood Pressure

Interacting with a therapy dog can lead to lower blood pressure. The calming effect of petting a dog can slow heart rate and decrease blood pressure, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with cardiovascular disease.

Pain Relief

Therapy dogs can also provide pain relief. Studies have shown that when an individual interacts with a therapy dog, it leads to decreased pain levels in patients recovering from surgery or dealing with chronic pain conditions. This is likely due to the release of endorphins, known as the natural painkillers produced by the body.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Interacting with a therapy dog can also improve cardiovascular health. The calming effect of petting a dog reduces heart rate and blood pressure, which can help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Enhanced Physical Rehabilitation

Therapy dogs can play significant roles in physical rehabilitation. They can motivate individuals to move more, stretch farther, and exercise longer. This can be beneficial to individuals who are recovering from a certain surgery or to those dealing with mobility issues.

In conclusion, therapy dogs offer a wide range of psychological and physiological benefits. They provide emotional support, reduce stress, improve mood, promote social interaction, lower blood pressure, provide pain relief, improve cardiovascular health, and enhance physical rehabilitation. These benefits highlight the incredible healing power of these animals and underscore the importance of their role in therapeutic settings.