There is plenty of research out there proving that dogs are capable of providing many therapeutic, health benefits. While giving affection and comfort to patients in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes comes natural to many dogs, there are a few dogs who seem to make the best candidates. One of the biggest advantages of using small dogs as therapy dogs is that they can be easily lifted on a bed and they can then be held by those who are wheel-chair bound or bedridden. However, it’s also important to consider that large dog breeds give patients oodles of “big joy” by offering “a lot of dog” to love.
Qualities of Good Therapy Dogs
Friendliness, patience, kindness and a good level of obedience training are important qualities for any therapy dog. And of course, the dogs need to be well socialized to different people and be blessed with rock-solid nerves so they’re capable of dealing with all those beeping machines and the potential chaos surrounding a medical crisis common scenarios in a hospital setting, explains Patricia McConnell. Following are some dog breeds who have the potential to make wonderful therapy dogs—yet no generalizations can be made.
The pug is blessed with a clownish and solar personality which works wonders in brightening somebody’s day. These dogs are natural people-pleasures who thrive on human companionship and love to be at the center of attention. On top of that, there’s no denial that their comical faces seem to trigger smiles everywhere they go!
With their baby-doll faces, immaculate white fur and plumed tails that elegantly curve over their backs, these dogs sure have what it takes to appeal people. A main advantage is their fur; it doesn’t shed like in many other breeds, making them a great option for people with allergies. With a history as circus performers, bichons are highly trainable and eager to learn tricks. They sure can put up a show and bring priceless smiles to everybody they encounter.
With their pretty bows holding a perky topknot and their glorious, silky coats, Yorkies sure have what it takes to grab attention. Interestingly, the history of therapy dogs dates back to World War II when Corporal William Wynne found an abandoned Yorkie in the battlefield. He called her Smoky. With her wonderful demeanor and amazing tricks she cheered up the morale of countless wounded soldiers in hospitals and continued to do so for another 12 years.
Don’t let the sophisticated, snobbish looks of these dogs fool you: poodles have the potential for making wonderful therapy dogs. First off, their coats don’t shed as seen in many other breeds, which makes them a plus for patients with allergies. Secondly, they are highly intelligent and trainable. And thirdly, this breed makes a wonderful companion for children; indeed, you’ll often stumble on poodles used as therapy dogs in schools.
These gentle giants weighing anywhere between 110 and 200 pounds look like snugly teddy bears just asking for hugs. With a history of saving many lost and injured travelers around the treacherous grounds nearby the Saint Bernard pass, this breed is naturally intelligent, good-natured and kind–all qualities needed in a good therapy dog.
These dogs are overrepresented as therapy and service dogs courtesy of their remarkably friendly disposition and eagerness to please. Yet, many Labs are too exuberant and rambunctious when young, something that is not acceptable in a therapy dog who must be composed and calm. If your young Lab is this way, don’t give up; rather, consider that often breeds that are hyper when young, make wonderful therapy dogs as they age.
With a heritage as a companion dog much cherished by the royal families in England, this breed has what it takes to make a good therapy dog. Most of these pooches are eager to meet anybody who crosses their path. If the person in question is sitting, he’ll be more than happy to hop in the lap and beg for some attention. Blessed with a sweet disposition, this breed is suitable for constant petting as it thrives on human attention.
The Bottom Line
Basically any dog provided with the right temperament, training and socialization has the potential for being a good therapy dog. Indeed, therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes! You’ll often see several different breeds being used as therapy dogs including German shepherds, Dobermans, pit bulls and Rottweilers and even mixed breeds as well. It ultimately all boils down to the dog’s individual temperament and proper social upbringing.