by Jan weaver
Those big brown eyes gazing at you with complete adoration. The cool, wet nose nudging bare feet in the early morning. That tireless wagging tail that symbolizes pure joy in your presence.
We know that dogs are dedicated companions that offer unquestioning attachment and acceptance. In the past several years, mounting scientific evidence suggests that they benefit us even beyond eager devotion. Numerous studies have shown that dogs — one of the earliest domesticated animals — can help lower blood pressure, ease the loneliness of the elderly in nursing homes, and help children overcome allergies.
Now there’s new research from the University of Missouri-Columbia suggesting the hormonal changes that occur when humans and dogs interact could help people cope with depression and certain stress-related disorders. Preliminary results from a study show that a few minutes of stroking our pet dog prompts a release of a number of “feel good” hormones in humans, including serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin.
In addition, petting our pooches results in decreased levels of the primary stress hormone cortisol, the adrenal chemical responsible for regulating appetite and cravings for carbohydrates.
“The notion that serotonin increased with their own dog is a very powerful thing. Could a dog help mediate serotonin levels in order to help depressed patients?” asks Dr. Rebecca Johnson, a nursing professor and associate director at the Center for Animal Wellness, Missouri University College of Veterinary Medicine, who is heading the study with collaborator Richard Meadows.
Why does Spot make us feel better?
Dog owners may not be surprised to hear about the emotional benefits of stroking a beloved pet, but for researchers like Johnson, it’s important to understand why Spot makes us feel better.
Therapy dogs have been used to visit nursing homes, calm traumatized children and help ease pain in people undergoing physical rehabilitation, but the field of animal-assisted therapy is still in its infancy, Johnson says. Researchers are trying to determine which types of people would best benefit from being with pet animals and how often they need to interact with them to get results.
Video: Pet therapy “By showing how interacting with pets actually works in the body to help people, we can help animal-assisted therapy become a mainsteam medically-accepted intervention that would be prescribed to patients and, in the long run, be reimbursed by insurance companies,” says Johnson. The University of Missouri-Columbia study was funded by The Skeeter Foundation, a group headed by Dr. Jack Stephens, founder of Veterinary Pet Insurance, a nationwide insurer of pet medical coverage.
Johnson’s study expanded on research conducted in 1999 by South African scientists who found that 15 minutes of quietly stroking a dog caused hormonal changes that were beneficial to both the dog and the human.
But the South African study was small, involving only 18 people and a few friendly dogs, and didn’t test for serotonin, the brain chemical strongly linked with depression. Increased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin make us more mentally alert, improve sleep and can make us less sensitive to pain.
Comparable to eating chocolate
In the larger Missouri study, 50 dog owners and 50 non-dog owners over the age of 18 sat in a quiet room for 15 to 39 minutes with their own dog, a friendly but strange dog, and a robotic dog. The robotic dog was included because electronic pooches, such as Sony’s AIBO, are being studied as a possible resource for the elderly who can’t look after a live animal.
Don’t miss these Health stories
More women opting for preventive mastectomy – but should they be?
Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn’t carry a 100 percent guarantee, it’s major surgery — and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.
2. Larry Page’s damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
3. Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
4. CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
5. What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says
Each session involved calm stroking or petting. Researchers checked blood samples of both the humans and dogs at the beginning of each session and monitored their blood pressure every five minutes. The dogs’ blood pressure dropped as soon as they were petted. The humans’ blood pressure dropped by approximately 10 percent about 15 to 30 minutes after they began petting the animal, at which point blood was again drawn.
Johnson’s study found that serotonin levels increased when interacting with the human’s own dog, but not with the unfamiliar animal. And serotonin actually decreased when interacting with the robotic dog.
Dr. Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, says the serotonin changes reveal the “mechanism” of how pets influence our health.
“It shows that there is a physiological mechanism [to relaxing with a pet], that it really is comparable to other things we know cause relaxation, like eating chocolate,” says Beck.
Not just learned behavior
In other words, the warm feeling we get from our dogs and other pets isn’t just a learned behavior, Beck says, but something that’s hard-wired into humans so that the presence of animals can help us stay well and even recover from illnesses.
It’s a theory that’s been gaining notable scientific support for some time:
* In 1995, Erika Friedman at the University of Maryland Hospital conducted a study involving 392 people, which found that heart attack patients with dogs were eight times more likely to be alive a year later than people without dogs.
* In 1999, the State University of New York at Buffalo conducted a study involving 24 stock brokers taking medication for high blood pressure. The researchers found that adding a dog or cat to the stock brokers’ lives helped stabilize and reduce their stress levels.
* In 1999, Swedish researchers reported that children exposed to pets during the first year of life had fewer allergies and less asthma.
* Recently, separate studies reported that walking a dog contributed to a person’s weight loss and that dog walking can be a catalyst for social interaction with other people, a benefit that can help improve our sense of well-being — or even help us meet a future spouse.
Studies involving other pets
While Johnson doesn’t advise patients to throw away their antidepressants and instead get a dog, she says animal therapy could be used as an adjunct to depression treatment.
“It gives us answers about who would be the most likely to benefit from owning a dog or how often someone would need to visit with a dog to get the beneficial effect,” she says.
And it’s not just dogs that are being studied for their therapeutic power. Currently Beck and other researchers at the Center for the Human-Animal Bond, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation and the University of Washington, are exploring how the “inborn attraction to nature” can help patients with dementia. For instance, people with Alzheimer’s disease often suffer from weight-loss problems because they’re unable to focus long enough to eat. But when they sit in front of aquariums with brightly colored fish, the elderly patients are able to pay attention long enough to get their meals down.
As scientific research continues to validate the importance of animals to human health, Beck expects to see more community funding for public dog runs, for example, as well as more widespread acceptance of animal care as a legitimate healthcare expense.He also hopes more insurance policies will begin offering coverage for services such as veterinary care for pets of the elderly, and that eventually pet owners will receive insurance discounts similar to the deals given to non-smokers.
Just as we recognize that exercise is important to our health, it’s becoming clearer that animals can also improve the quality of our lives, Beck says.
“We still haven’t realized that [owning a pet] isn’t just some kind of hobby.”
Therapy dogs will visit travelers at ONT
ONT's PAWS (Pets Assisting With Smiles) program has approximately 35 certified therapy dogs and their handlers roaming throughout the terminals on rotating schedules and visiting with passengers. “We're excited about our new volunteers creating a …
Read more on Fontana Herald-News
Meet the therapy dogs who volunteered at theater trial
The group of five therapy dogs volunteered hundreds of hours to gladly receive belly rubs, pets, snuggles, and oftentimes, tears. The dogs, from black Labrador to golden retriever, spent day after day, since May 18, at the Arapahoe County Justice …
Read more on 9NEWS.com
therapy dogs eBay auctions you should keep an eye on:
by Marvin Kuo
This is a developmental disability, which makes itself apparent during the first 3 years of a childs life. This disorder affects your childs social relations, non-verbal contact and other regular brain functions. Some kids with autism dont want being hugged or cuddled often like most normal kids do and they like repetitive routines and stick to it. Most oftentimes, kids with autism have something theyre obsessed with. They have feelings and could feel different emotions but having difficulties showing it like most other kids do.
Kids with autism will find it difficult to show empathy and understand what other people feels but this is not permanent. However, the ability to empathize with other people can be improved as the child is constantly reminded. Kids with this disorder will be slow in catching most body language that people engage into, without verbally say something and most kids with autism cant communicate verbally at all. Some children with this disorder dont like unexpected thunderous noise, as some are not totally fond of surprises.
To address some of these problems, there are autism therapies that can be recommended by your childs attending physician. These therapies are designed to help your child communicate better, some autism therapy may work for one childs situation and others dont, so there is no guarantee but one therapy for autism is Autism Language Therapy, which result to communication skills development. The problem that researchers, scientists and specialists are first and foremost trying to address as this is a challenging goal for children with autism, becoming better at communicating with other people. This should be introduced as early as pre-school stage of your childs life to properly address the problem. . Autism Language Therapy should be introduced to a child with autism earlier in his life. The learning stage and progress of kids with autism, varies. Some kids will be able to learn faster than most, like learning to read lengthy words. Some can learn playing the piano or any other instruments.
Hope Autism Service offer Autism Therapy & Autism Treatment for brain disorder that typically appears during a childs first three years and lasts throughout a person’s lifetime.
Find More Therapy Dogs Articles
Dogs protect fawn body in wildfire-scarred Idaho
KAMIAH, Idaho (AP) — Among the images of destruction that have come from the wildfires tearing up the West is one showing an act of kindness by a family of dogs in Idaho. The photo, taken in wildfire-ravaged Kamiah by Louis Armstrong on Monday, shows …
Read more on WRGT TV Fox 45
What is Therapy Dog Training?
Therapy dogs are those dogs that are used by certain people, or are taken into certain environments to provide therapy in the form of comfort or companionship to those people in need.
Healthcare professionals are realising and appreciating the benefits that a therapy dog can offer. Therapy dogs do not necessarily have a specific tasks or work to do, they simply provide comfort, and companionship to people who may benefit, such as those in wheelchairs, in assisted living facilities, the elderly, or hospice care for example.
So therapy dogs do not carry out specific tasks such as guiding their owner through obstacles, or respond to the telephone or doorbell rings, they are simply as companions and for comfort and feel good assistance.
Dogs Suitable For Therapy Dog Training:
Not all dogs are suitable candidates for therapy dog training, and some specialised training is needed. Some dogs are uncomfortable around strangers, children, wheelchairs, in new environments, people using crutches or canes, or with medical equipment near them for example.
Therapy dog training incorporates the socialisation in such environments, so they become relaxed around medical equipment, and are happy and calm to meet new people in new situations. It must also be remembered that all that come into contact with your dog may not pat your dog gently, some may be clumsy, and of course not all will quiet, some may shout too. It is very important that in these situations your dog remains calm and composed, as some people may be less mobile, less in control, and less able.
Teaching your dog to crawl up on to a lap, on to a chair or bed is another important part of therapy dog training. The reason for teaching your dog to do this is that some people can be bedridden or unable to bend or get to down to the dogs level. So in order for the dog to be in closer contact it is the role of the dog to be able to get up to the persons level. This can be quite alien for some dogs as many owners train their dogs not to get up on people or the furniture. So a bit of retraining will be necessary in this situation but it is achievable.
Best breed for Therapy Dog Training:
It must be remembered that not all dogs are suitable for such a role. These dogs need to be friendly, calm, patient, adaptable, and gentle. They need have the disposition and personality to be able to deal with unpredictable situations. They need to be calm and accepting of strangers too. There are some breeds that are considered to be more appropriate than others, for example Golden Retrievers are generally happy, calm and friendly dogs. However this is not set in stone, there will be mongrels and dogs from other breeds too that could be suitable, it is all down to the individual.
Alternative Animal Therapy:
It is not simply the role of dogs that can be used as therapy animals. Other types of therapy animals include guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, and ponies. Not everyone has the environment for a pony, but there are centre’s where people can go for therapy with horses, and I know of someone who used to regularly take their pony for visits into the classrooms of the local school for children with disabilities, the children absolutely loved it; it was such a boost to their day. Whatever the animal, it is important that they are trained and socialised correctly in order to deal with the situations as discussed above.
So, if you are looking for a rewarding way to help improve the quality of life and make a real difference to others, and of course you have the all important pet who would be suitable and enjoy this comforting and therapeutic and very worthwhile activity then why not consider dog training therapy and help others who are in need.
If you want the very best for your dog, and get access to FREE dog walks around the UK, then you need to go to http://sarchie.com/ You will get instant access on Therapy Dog Training, plus access to FREE downloads, the latest reports, & top reviews
Related Therapy Dogs Articles
Let's make Nottingham even better – pledge to carry out a good deed!
Christine Brooke, of The Park Dog Walking Group, said: "I think the campaign is marvellous; every day we should try to do a good deed." Staff from the Post also helped launch Good Deeds Notts. They gave blood at the Nottingham Donor Centre and others …
Read more on Nottingham Post
OUR GOOD DEEDS: Teen volunteers at Humane Society
She'll often spend all day at the facility, playing with the cats, bathing the dogs and cleaning. One of her favorite moments volunteering is when she takes the dogs inside after walking or playing with them outside. "I like them to be out of breath …
Read more on Rapid City Journal
Tapped In with Michael Deeds: Pilsners, lagers enjoy surge in beer popularity
Even the really big craft beer drinkers like a good lager every once in a while.” Francis added that Payette's Fly Line Vienna Style Lager, a golden lager that tastes a bit sweeter than a pilsner, is Payette's second biggest summer seller behind Outlaw …
Read more on The Idaho Statesman
Check out these therapy dogs images:
Read to the Dogs
Image by Fairfax Library Foundation
2012 Dogs LIbrary_1160
Image by UNH Manchester
Image by Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
Therapy Dog Tanner agonizingly demonstrates obedience April 23 at the Fort Richardson Child Development Center by not eating treats placed on his paws.
Tori Truelove-Butler outdoes her first Care Packages for the Troops endeavor
Tori Truelove-Butler, left, and Donna Thacker prepare care packages that will be sent to Bahrain for Truelove-Butler's husband's Marine unit. Volunteers were packing items such as soap, candy, shaving cream and toys on Monday morning at the Adams …
Read more on Brownwood Bulletin
Dog wash benefits Prescription Pet Program
KUSA – Some area dogs did a good deed Sunday by letting volunteers buff and fluff them at the 29th annual Dog Wash Fundraiser. Owners paid $ 17 to $ 20 to get their pooches pampered in support of the Prescription Pet Program, which brings dogs to the …
Read more on 9NEWS.com