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Therapy Dogs

Abroad, pets and especially dogs are often not just companions and friends but also working animals in various fields. In Greece, when we hear about this, we usually think of police dogs or search and rescue teams, and more rarely as guide dogs for the blind.

In reality, there are three categories of such dogs: service dogs, which, as mentioned, are used in various services; therapy dogs, which are used with people with disabilities, such as guide dogs for the blind or dogs trained to alert for seizures; and emotionally supportive animals, which aim to provide emotional or psychological support.

The concept of emotionally supportive animals is highly impactful in various psychological contexts. Dogs, along with their handlers, visit hospitals and nursing homes to provide psychological support to the people there. In the United States, dogs visit hospitals with children suffering from cancer, attempting to offer a sense of familiarity, comfort, and often, carefreeness to the young fighters. In nursing homes, dogs are used to combat the feeling of loneliness among the residents. Conversations often start among people with comments about the dog. Nowadays, some schools have dogs that accompany children in certain classes, aiming for the children to learn coexistence with other creatures and respect for them.

In terms of psychotherapy, dogs have extremely beneficial effects on individuals suffering from depression and suicidal ideation. They can also help in cases of difficulty in regulating a person’s emotions, in individuals on the autism spectrum, and more broadly in psychotherapy. Just by their presence, they provide quicker relaxation to the patient. When it comes to anxiety, an excellent example is the San Francisco International Airport, where therapy dogs are stationed to calm passengers traveling by plane and feeling anxious. Similar examples follow at airports in Los Angeles, Berlin, and Scotland.

After all, how much resistance can someone have to a wagging tail?

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