Therapy Dogs = Happiness

Are therapy dogs helpful to others?

As I stated before I go see a counselor who has a therapy dog, Keona, who immediately brightens my overall mood when I see her. Then I got to thinking are therapy dogs helpful to others? I thought why not dig deeper into this topic to see the results I may come across. It is becoming more common across America for people to come out and admit they have a mental illness. Sometimes medicine always isn’t the best answer, so therapy animals come into play. According to this article, pets are found to be more of a support system than a husband/wife or even family.

keona  This is Keona, isn’t she adorable?!

Study 1

The study I came across talked about how elder adults react to pet therapy. They took a sample of 21 patients who are affected daily with dementia and depression. The researchers were trying to find out if the pets had any effect on the elder adults mood, what they thought about the overall quality of their life and etc. They broke the patients up into two groups, one being the experimental group and the other being the control group. The control group had no interaction with the therapy animals. They made both groups do a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and also made them complete Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) before and after they received pet therapy. This experimental study lasted six weeks.

Both the groups, experimental and control, improved tremendously after the study was finished. In the experimental group the depression scale ratings decreased when means that the pet therapy did play a huge part. It decreased by 50% and had a p-value of 0.013. The Mini-Mental State examination increased by 4.5 and had a p-value of 0.060. The conclusion stated that pet therapy is helpful when trying to enhance mental illness symptoms in people who stay in facilities for a long time.


The above image breaks up how animal therapy can serve as help to different people in different categories.

Study 2

The second study I looked into was how therapy animals can impact someone whose in an institution for mental health reasons. The sample of this study was 230 participants who were at the time patients at the institution and whom were pointed in the direction of curative therapy. A cross over study was used to look at the differences between a session with a therapy animals versus one without. Prior to the session and following the session the participants were asked to complete the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory which allows the participants to evaluate themselves based on how they think their anxiety levels is at that time. The results stated that both of the different sessions decreased anxiety levels for the participants who were patients in the mental health institution.

Take home message

My personal opinion about therapy dogs is that they help tremendously. Every time I walk into my counselor’s office and see Keona my mood automatically spikes into a upward spiral. The study also proved that pet therapy IS helpful among elder adults as well. I just think it is so powerful because just allowing someone to have a pet can increase a person’s mood. How easy is that?! When looking back at the two studies, I think it is very obvious how therapy animals can decrease anxiety and increase happiness. Study one looked at elderly people in homes and study two looked at patients who were in a mental health institution. That could be a big factor in changing the world around us and helping others who are struggling with mental illness feel like they actually have a place. If you are interested in this topic and want to look into it more, I suggest checking out this website!

3 thoughts on “Therapy Dogs = Happiness

  1. Jarrod T Skole

    This blog is very near and dear to my heart since my own dog is a therapy dog. My father and I would bring our dog to nursing homes since as you said, dogs create happiness. I agree with this 100% after what I saw at the nursing home. The elderly people would walk or crutch over to my dog just to pet him and throw a toy to him. The look on their faces showed how happy they were to see him and it seemed to give them a lot more energy too. The nurses would say how the people who played with my dog, Striker, would always look forward to the days he came in. I think that Striker had such an impact on these people since many of them do not have visitors or spend a lot of time alone. I think having a therapy dog at nursing homes or hospitals could be a huge asset for the nurses/ doctors and patients alike.

  2. Lucas Thomas Hansen

    Being a dog owner myself, I was drawn in by the title of this article because my dog does make me happy when I am down. By looking at real research, supporting the idea that dogs provide happiness brings up the point that this therapy method is under used and most people overlook the idea. I think the evidence that you provided should be shared to many people so they can realize that this treatment does work and could be a much better alternative to things such as pills and other methods.

  3. Molly Samantha Arnay

    As someone who has two dogs, this caught my eye immediately! Mainly because whenever I’m upset or stressed the first thing I do is play with my dogs and it always makes me feel good. There’s something about a dog that just makes people happy, probably because they can’t say anything to make your mood worse so they’ll always make you feel better. I think it would be interesting to see if pets or animals actually change the chemicals in your brain? (i.e. a release of dopamine or something like that). Cool blog!

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