Paws with Purpose: How Pet Therapy Helps Children and Adults Heal

Young Girl Being Visited In Hospital By Therapy DogUndeniable affection and their amazing ability to learn are just a few of the many wonderful aspects of our canine friends. For the dog lover, the significant emotional and physiological benefits of the human-dog connection is nothing new. It is incredibly exciting to see research that supports and affirms this basic truth: interacting with an animal can be healing.

A study by Rebecca Johnson, Ph.D., RN, of the University of Missouri-Columbia Center for the Study of Animal Wellness, illustrated that when we interact with a pet, such as petting our dog, we experience an overall sense of well-being. This is largely due to what takes place in us physiologically as the body produces more “feel good” chemicals, such as dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphin. Studies conducted in the 80s concluded that heart attack survivors who owned a dog lived longer than those without – and, that simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure.

While we all consider our own wonderful pooches to be exceptional and perhaps even therapeutic to us, for a dog to be classified as a service dog, specific criteria and rigorous training must be met to teach these dogs the skills they will need to be a therapeutic partner. Continue…