The Roles – and Importance – of Therapy Dogs in the UK

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Mental health is an issue that touches every household in the UK in some form or another. The mental health charity Mind reports that a quarter of us experience a mental health condition each and every year – and that for one in five of us, thoughts can turn towards the dark.

There are many different ways to approach handling or treating mental health conditions, from medication and monitored treatments to talking therapies and even forest bathing. For some mental health conditions, therapy dogs are a phenomenal help. But how important are therapy dogs in the UK, and what benefits do they offer to those struggling with mental illness?

Mental Health Support

It is a positive societal shift that mental health awareness is becoming increasingly prioritised in public conversation. Stigma is falling, and more people are able to seek help – meaning that some are able to make positive life changes such as the adoption of a therapy dog. 

Therapy dogs, generally speaking, offer invaluable support to individuals struggling with mental health challenges – particularly individuals with PTSD, for whom trained dogs can accept the responsibility of recognising and responding to episodes. They are also excellent cures for loneliness, offering companionship to those battling depression, or reducing feelings of isolation among the elderly.

Stress Reduction

The stress-relieving properties of pets are well-understood even by neurotypical people; engaging with domesticated animals can lower the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body, and conversely increase the levels of endorphins. These have knock-on effects for the body, including lower blood pressure and reduced sensations of tension – all of which are indispensable for someone with a mental health condition.

Therapy dogs are effectively ‘working’ when reducing the stress levels of their charge; with this in mind, it can be easy to see their efforts for what they are, and be more responsible with their use. This responsibility might also lead you to look at pet insurance, in order to lighten the financial load in the event that something does happen.

Socialisation

Therapy dogs can also serve as effective social catalysts, facilitating interactions between people and enabling the fostering of new connections. Who amongst us hasn’t stopped to talk dog with a dog-walker on the street, or in the park? Children with autism, individuals with developmental disabilities, and patients undergoing therapy or rehabilitation are the perfect recipients for such ancillary effects of dog ownership, and can be successfully socialised through the interactions that their therapy dogs create.

Rehabilitation Assistance

Finally, but no less importantly, therapy dogs play an active role in physical rehabilitation programs too. Where an injurious event has required physiotherapy and guided exercise, therapy dogs can help encourage exercise and ‘homework’. It is also the case that activities such as walking and grooming can have positive impacts on motor skills, coordination, and mobility.

The post The Roles – and Importance – of Therapy Dogs in the UK appeared first on Wellbeing Magazine.

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