Therapeutic Visitation Dogs are the most common type of therapy dog. They are usually personal pets who have been trained to provide comfort and affection for people and are registered as therapy dogs. Their owners take the time to visit hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, detention and rehabilitation facilities, and sometimes other facilities where contact with a dog could be of benefit to individuals.
The dogs help people who have to stay somewhere away from home due to physical or mental illness, or a physical or learning disability or a court order. A visit from a Dog can lift their spirits and brighten their day. Interactions with dogs can support patients in their treatment or therapy and motivate them to get better and maybe go home, where their own dog might be waiting.
Interactions with therapy dogs can increase the levels of oxytocin and dopamine, which are responsible for bonding and happiness. At the same time raised Cortisol levels, that are a result of stress, can be lowered.
Dogs also help individuals to maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity, which is essential for staying healthy and happy and building healthy relationships. Visits from dogs encourage physical movement and facilitate social behaviour. Therapy dogs provide a safe source of physical contact, affection and companionship. They enjoy being stroked and cuddled and thereby nourish the sense of touch, which is so important for children, the elderly and in fact for all humans. Dogs don’t hold back in showing their affection and wanting to be of service. They are very compassionate and often sense sadness or illness. They can be a great source of comfort and we humans have much to learn from them.
A disaster relief dog is a special type of therapeutic visitation dog. Disaster relief dogs and their handlers bring comfort and solace to victims of natural disasters, war zones, terrorist attacks or other violent disasters, who have suffered traumatic experiences.
Reading therapy dogs visit schools and public libraries, where they help children to become more confident readers. Children who struggle with reading often develop issues with low self-esteem and confidence, especially when asked to read in front of peers, teachers or parents. Reading therapy dogs create a friendly atmosphere, that allows children to read aloud to a dog and practise their reading skills without feeling judged. Reading therapy dogs also help children to begin to enjoy reading and feel comfortable and even excited about reading.