The New Age of Therapy has Four Legs: Therapy Dogs add Potential for Pups

Emma P., journalist

Therapy dogs are becoming more prevalent and acceptable, especially following the 18 or more months of isolation caused by the pandemic and the current uneasiness of the world.  People are in need of the consolation these dogs provide.

In an age in which anxiety prevails, relief in the form of affection is a plus. A study conducted by the Royal University Hospital in Canada this year, found that patients’ health improved after receiving pet therapy. “Clinically significant changes in pain as well as significant changes in anxiety, depression and well-being were observed in the therapy dog intervention group compared to control groups”. 

There is validation for the value of therapy dogs, especially for children in a hospital pediatric setting. Research published last March in the Journal of Pediatric Medicine, stated, “animal-assisted therapy was beneficial for controlling pain and blood pressure in hospitalized children and teenagers.”  While additional benefits were proven, the message is clear: pet therapy works. 

Samantha Overacker, a history teacher at George Washington University Online High School (GWUOHS), has a heart condition. Her dog, Ariya, is a certified therapy dog. “When I feel anxious and my heart starts to race, I find that having Ariya is beneficial.” Ariya has been trained to put her head on my lap and stay close by until I calm down.”

  Samantha Overacker and Aryiya High-Pawing.

  Photo provided by Samantha Overacker 

GWUOHS math teacher Christy Teague has recently started her 65-pound golden retriever, Rusty, in a therapy dog training program. Christy Teague and her family bought Rusty from a breeder over a year ago with the goal of having him trained to provide comfort and companionship – therapy – to kids at a nearby hospital as well as for their families.

Therapy dogs like Rusty are trained for success. Christy Teague provided an inside look at Rusty’s in-depth training. In addition to his group classes in behavior, Rusty has a personal trainer. “Rusty worked with his trainer once a week until he reached the Good Citizen level. After that, the whole family continued working with him at home.” 

Teague notes, “Consistency is key. It really is a 24/7 job to keep up with training and ensuring that the dog stays on a strict routine”. 

The health benefits of therapy dogs are clear.  If you have the time, consider investing  in a training program for your dog. It could prove to be a suitable choice for your family and for others who will find comfort with your pet . Remember, anything is paw-sible when you put your best paw forward.

Christy Teague and Rusty at his Good Citizen Graduation. 

                                  Photo provided by Christy Teague 

Works Cited:

“Outcomes of a controlled trial with visiting therapy dog teams on pain in adults in an emergency department.” Carey B, Dell CA, Stempien J, Tupper S, Rohr B, Carr E. March 9th, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0262599 

“The Positive Effect of Therapy Dogs in Pediatric Hospital Settings.” University of Texas, Arlington. February 2nd, 2022. https://academicpartnerships.uta.edu/articles/healthcare/therapy-dogs-in-pediatric-hospital-settings.aspx   

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