When you’re surrounded by puppies, it’s hard not to feel good about life.
Their infectious enthusiasm, unconditional love for humans and innocent faces NEVER get old.
Just scroll through your newsfeed and see what gets more likes – your status updates or pictures of dogs being adorable? It’s dogs, always dogs! (Cool Dog Group anyone?)
Even offline, puppies reign supreme.
Ever notice when you pass a person walking their dog down the street, you’ll happily greet the pooch but rarely acknowledge the owner? It’s seriously a thing!
And, so is using these positive interactions to improve your health.
Pets making their mark in the medical world
It’s called animal-assisted therapy.
Essentially, dogs are trained to interact with people who’re sick, injured or have special needs to improve their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.
Our furry friends help treat a range of conditions such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Heart disease
- Developmental, emotional and behavioral disorders
- Chronic pain.
They also improve the lives of the elderly, people in nursing homes, people with disabilities and patients in hospital or rehabilitation.
You might be wondering how puppy therapy works. It can actually be as simple as spending time with a dog playing fetch, going for a walk or getting some much needed cuddles.
But, sometimes it’s more complex with dogs helping patients to practice fine motor skills, improve coordination and learn to interact socially.
Is there evidence to prove animal therapy works?
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has conducted multiple studies on animal-assisted therapy.
Clinical nurse Kathie Cole lead one of its studies which monitored heart patients who each spent 12 minutes interacting with a dog.
“This study demonstrates that even a short-term exposure to dogs has beneficial physiological and psychosocial effects on patients,” she said.
“This therapy warrants serious consideration as an adjunct to medical therapy. Dogs are a great comfort. They make people happier, calmer and feel more loved. That is huge when you are scared and not feeling well.”
UCLA aren’t the only ones looking into the benefits of spending time with our four-legged friends.
According to Brisbane’s Mater Private Hospital, which has its own pet therapy program, research has proven interactions with animals, mostly dogs, can have positive effects on humans such as:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced release of stress hormones
- Decreased anxiety
- Decreased pain
- Improved mood.
How do I find a therapy dog?
There are several not-for-profits in Australia, and Queensland, that employ man’s best friend to provide therapy services including:
- Delta Society Australia
- A.W.A.R.E Dogs Australia
- Assistance Dogs Australia
- Canine Helpers
- Smart Pups
And, of course, you don’t have to be unwell to reap the benefits of puppy therapy.
If you don’t own a dog, you’ll surely know someone who does. Treat yourself by scheduling in some some quality time with a puppy (oops, and your friend, ha!).
If not, ride-sharing service Uber (capital cities only) via its app for a $40 snuggle fee that’s donated to a local animal shelter. But, be careful, these puppies are up for adoption.