Dogs can be much more than just loving companions; they can also be very helpful to many individuals by becoming therapy dogs.
Therapy dogs provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, retirement or nursing homes, hospices, schools, disaster areas, and to those suffering from mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. They can also be used with people with learning difficulties or autism.
While any breed of dog can become a therapy dog providing they have an even and affectionate temperament, certain breeds are used more than others. It’s too bad that the media looks bad upon some breeds. For example, the staff Pitbull and the Rottweiler will have issues being allowed into facilities to do the therapy dog work. This is not fair, but is an unfortunate reality, according to Dogman Mark Castillero.
Guest blogger, Alexandra Seagal of animalso.com shares her insights about the best therapy dog breeds.
Here are the top 7 breeds used as therapy dogs:
1. Labrador Retriever
Not only are Labrador Retrievers the most popular breed in the US, but also one of breeds most commonly used as therapy dogs.
This is in large part due to their friendly nature towards one and all, meaning they can be used to work with people of any age as well as around other animals. What’s more, they are very obedient and eager to please, making them a highly trainable breed.
Labs tend to be great for people with mood disorders such as depression, and they are also very good with children.
2. German Shepherd
As well as guard dogs, police dogs and search and rescue dogs, German Shepherds are often used for therapeutic purposes.
They are a versatile and highly intelligent breed, meaning they can be trained to do a number of things and adapt well to a range of situations and people.
The only obstacle with this breed is that they have a tendency to be protective, so they must be trained rigorously in order to overcome this. If well trained, they are one of the most gentle dogs out there.
Greyhounds? I hear you cry. Well, while greyhounds may not be the first that breed that comes to mind for use as a therapy dog, they are one of the calmest and most affectionate breeds that exist.
What’s more they rarely bark, which makes them great for use with children as well as in busy places such as hospitals or schools.
4. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
These dogs get a bad press, so this is another breed you might be surprised to see on this list. Actually, are being used more and more as therapy dogs. When properly trained, Staffies are incredibly gentle creatures.
Staffies are quite the “clowns” of the dog world and can really warm your heart with their playfulness, so they work especially well with people with mood disorders like depression as well as with children.
Their high energy levels mean they do not always suit physically disabled people, however.
Yes, Rottweilers may look tough, but this is a very loving and gentle breed when trained properly. During training, they need lots of interaction with people to ensure a healthy level of sociability.
A well-trained Rottweiler’s confident, affectionate personality can light up anyone’s day, whether it’s someone recovering in hospital or a group of elderly people at a retirement home.
6. Saint Bernard
St Bernards are one of the most docile breeds around. This giant breed’s size and calm temperament can bring a smile to anyone’s face.
These dogs adore contact with people, and they really aim to please, so you can be sure they will always do their best to help.
Their low-key personality means they are often used to work with children – and their fluffy fur makes them great for hugging!
These little bundles are incredibly sociable, playful, and they love to please. Like Staffies, they are quite entertaining, but their smaller size makes them a good match for kids, the elderly, and disabled people, as they are easier to handle.
Due to their sunny personalities and affectionate and active natures, Pugs often work with people with mood disorders.
Remember, any breed can become a therapy dog – it’s all about temperament and thorough training. But, if you’re an organization or a family looking for a therapy dog to help others, this list is a good place to start.
Dogman Mark and his team at Pro-Train are big supporters of Pet Partners. This nonprofit helps match owners with the right service dog breed.