In the United States alone, there are more than 50,000 registered therapy dogs. Many of them make the rounds in hospitals and nursing homes, with the express purpose of brightening someone’s day. A visit from a therapy dog is always, of course, at the discretion of the person in the hospital or nursing home, but these well-trained and beautifully-behaved dogs are usually welcomed with enthusiasm.
Interestingly, spending just a little time with a dog—therapy dog or otherwise—looking into its eyes, petting or even just touching its fur not only brings us happiness but also improves our health. Numerous rigorous medical studies have found that this human/dog interaction lowers blood pressure, reduces production of stress hormones, decreases anxiety, alleviates depression, and lessens pain. All this in less than 15 minutes!
But just as COVID-19 has turned almost everything in our daily routine upside down, it has also meant that therapy dog visits to hospitals and nursing homes are temporarily on hold. Thanks to technology, though, therapy dogs are bringing comfort and joy to those settings via screen time, as reported by a story on Chicago’s WGN9 TV.
Dog therapy is not just helping the ill or elderly; these days, young kids stuck at home missing their routine of school and friends are benefiting from it. And, as reported by Fox News 31 in Denver, some of those visits are face-to-face, making for happy therapy dogs, too. As neuroscientist Gregory Berns notes about dogs, “They love the company of humans simply for its own sake.”