Spending time with dogs has many positive outcomes for humans and affects all aspects of their well-being, physical, mental and emotional.
Stress causes an overproduction of stress hormones, particularly cortisol, in the human body. High cortisol levels are one of the main causes for high blood pressure and heart rate. This increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. A visit with a therapy dog can contribute greatly to reducing and reversing the effects of stress. Contact with therapy dogs can also greatly reduce anxiety without the need for medication.
Interaction with therapy dogs can reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety, including those of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression can be greatly reduced, giving people a sense of belonging and companionship and a safe source for stimulating their sense of touch and expressing affection. Aggressive behaviours are also often reduced by the calming and non-judgemental presence a dog can provide. Therapy dogs encourage an outward focus and socialisation with opportunities for laughter, resulting in more happiness and well-being. Dogs are compassionate, accepting and non-judgmental and give patience a sense of emotional safety and self-esteem, enabling them to be more involved in group activities, accept help and participate in other therapies. Through the increased mental stimulation, attention and focus are improved and verbal interactions become easier.
Through the calm, joyful and loving presence of a dog the stress hormone cortisol is decreased.. The heart rate and blood pressure are also lowered by interaction with a therapy dog. Hormones that are associated with health and well being, like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are increased. Dogs encourage physical movement and thereby help with physical skills like standing, walking, balance, wheelchair use and fine motor skills. The general level of fitness is also improved. Dog therapy can reduce the need for medication.