Pet therapy: are dogs happy during hospital sessions?


Pet therapy: are dogs happy during hospital sessions? One study tried to answer this question about dogs well-being.

Pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, is a therapeutic path recognized by the Ministry of Health, now active in the centers of large cities. The beneficial effects of the sessions are now proven on human beings, but does this also apply to dogs? A study revealed whether dogs are happy during pet therapy or not.


The study on “work” stress in dogs

To offer their fundamental support to our species, animals are trained both as guide dogs, assistance dogs, and to be accompanied by people with psycho-physical health problems of various kinds.

After all, it is one of the many benefits of the dog , which in recent years has been enjoying considerable success and many results.

Dogs are trained for the different therapies for which they are intended and are managed both privately and by organizations, associations or hospitals and specialized centers.

However, some Applied Animal Behaviour Science researchers have questioned whether these therapy doggies aren’t stressed from work.

The researchers conducted the study on 26 dogs used in pediatric wards that work alongside a hundred people.


Are dogs happy during pet therapy?

The researchers measured the levels of cortisol, a hormone that is activated with stress and is present in the saliva of dogs.

To check if the dogs were happy, and more generally their well-being, saliva samples were taken with swabs both when the furry ones were at rest at home and during pet therapy sessions in the hospital.

As reported the level of cortisol increases with stress both when it comes to positive and negative stress.

For example, if a dog plays with the ball, cortisol levels go up.

That is why, the study also took into account other parameters. The researchers filmed and analyzed 26 behaviors, divided into three different categories:

  • friendly actions such as approaching a person or while playing;
  • calming signals from dogs , which are signs of stress, such as lip licking and fidgeting
  • the major behaviour that indicates stress in the animal, such as whining.

The results of the study

According to the results, there were no changes in cortisol hormone levels between home and therapy.

So dogs are not stressed during therapy.

However, the new study is important for the scientific input: Previous studies provided only little information on activities during the sessions, so it was difficult to pinpoint the level of stress in dogs

The new research also appears to have shown that based on their behaviour, therapy dogs seemed happier during some activities than at other activities.

For example, when a child talks to the dog or plays with him, strokes him, the dog looks happy.

It’s fair to say that some activities are more fun for the dog.

These results emerged from the study on the behavior of the therapy dog, will certainly be able to better address the training and use of the dog during hospital sessions and in interaction with patients.

However, the researchers pointed out, not always displays of affection from people are appreciated by dogs.

Some cases were found to be stressed by too much affection. This is why it is important to create a balanced relationship and above all to respect the dog and his feelings.


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