There’s nothing quite like the warmth of a cold nose. Cuddling up with a canine friend can boost your spirits when you’re feeling low. Therapy dogs provide comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes and schools, and to those with disabilities and enduring difficult situations. While service dogs directly assist people, therapy dogs simply soothe people who need a furry friend through petting, holding, and sometimes doing simple tricks or playing games. Whereas service dogs are legally defined, therapy dogs are not. Most institutions that allow therapy dogs require that they pass a behavioral test such as the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test.
While any size dog can be a therapy pet, small dogs in particular are well-suited for the job because they can be lifted into beds if a person is immobile. They also can be held more easily than larger dogs. When it comes to therapy dogs, temperament is most important. They should be friendly, gentle and have a calm demeanor. They also should like to be petted and handled. Read on learn about the 10 best dogs for therapy work.
In “Legally Blonde,” the sassy Chihuahua Bruiser provides solace to the rejected Elle Woods after she’s jilted by her boyfriend. Elle totes Bruiser around in a handbag while launching her comeback at Harvard Law School. The comfort that these energetic and tiny pups can share isn’t just reserved for the silver screen.
The small size of the Chihuahua makes it an ideal therapy dog. They come in a variety of colors and can have either long or short coats. Because they are so tiny, they can easily be lifted into hospital beds. Chihuahuas are also alert, intelligent and confident pooches.
Don’t let the fluffy coat and frou frou hairdo fool you. The poodle is one of most intelligent breeds of dog. This canine combination of brains and beauty excels in obedience training and makes him an ideal therapy dog.
Originating in Germany as water retrievers, the poodle’s thick coat was cut into the chic “poodle clip” to allow the dog to swim easier while keeping vital organs and joints warm. Poodles’ coats come in shades of black, white and apricot and are hypoallergenic, so they are well-suited for people who suffer from allergies.
Poodles are popular therapy dogs in schools. Ariel, a therapy dog at Rodriguez Elementary School, in Harlingen, Texas, assists in reading programs and comforts students if they’ve struggled with an assignment.
Corgis are a favorite of England’s Queen Elizabeth II. Her father, King George VI, brought home a corgi named Dookie in 1933, and a second corgi, Jane, was introduced to the family shortly thereafter. Jane had two more royal puppies named Crackers and Carol. On the occasion of her18th birthday, the Queen was given a corgi named Susan who bred many more royal pooches. The Queen now owns four corgis: Monty, Linnet, Willow and Holly.
Corgis aren’t just for royalty; they make excellent therapy dogs. A member of the herding group, the corgi is an even-tempered and affectionate breed. These short and sturdy dogs are known for both their obedience and friendly attitudes. Originally bred to be herders on farms, Corgis make excellent companion dogs for people in nursing homes or with disabilities.
French bulldogs love to warm the laps of a human friend in need of some companionship. These non-confrontational, affectionate and even-tempered dogs were selectively bred from larger bulldogs to be used as lap pets. During the Industrial Revolution, the dogs were introduced to France and gained popularity among Americans who saw them there on the Grand Tour. In the late 1800s, they became known as French bulldogs.
French bulldogs are known for their muscular frames, heavy bone structures and smooth coats. They have short faces and bat-like ears. Due to their compact size and affable attitude, French bulldogs, also known as Frenchies, make excellent therapy dogs.
The majestic King Charles spaniel, named after King Charles II of Britain, was bred to be a loyal companion dog. For hundreds of years, paintings of aristocrats have featured depictions of King Charles Spaniels lounging on the laps of their noble owners.
These centuries of companionship have given the King Charles spaniel lots of practice in providing camaraderie and comfort. They love to interact with people and their warm temperament and obedient nature makes them the perfect therapy dog. Although King Charles Spaniels are excellent for people of all ages, they work particularly well with children. Due to their small size, King Charles Spaniels easily can visit children who are bedridden or wheelchair-bound. Their calm and friendly temperament also allows them to provide comfort to kids suffering from emotional problems or mental health issues.
Dachshunds were first bred in Germany in the 1600s to root out and kill badgers. A fearless breed with a great sense of smell and a friendly personality, the dachshund, a German word for “badger dog,” comes in three coat varieties: smooth, wirehaired and longhaired.
Known for their elongated, low bodies and short legs, dachshunds are affectionately nicknamed hot dogs or wiener dogs. Dachshunds work well with children, and their small sizes makes them easy to lift for wheelchair-bound or bedridden patients. Due to their affectionate and playful personalities, dachshunds are especially helpful to people suffering from epilepsy, depression, autism and anxiety disorders.
Joseph, a 12-year-old pug, is not only the face of Winchester (Mass.) Hospital’s pet therapy program; he’s also the title character of the children’s book “Pug! What a Mug.” The book explains pet therapy to children by chronicling the story of a patient who spends her fourth birthday in the hospital as Joseph the Pug cheers her up.
Pugs offer a ton of energy in a tiny package. They are not only playful and charismatic but also loving and devoted. Pugs are natural people pleasers and get along well with both the young and old. Pugs work particularly well with children suffering from autism and other neurodevelopment disorders
The Bichon Frise was bred to be a companion dog. Originating in the Mediterranean, Bichon Frises accompanied sailors on sea voyages and soon became popular lap dogs for nobility in France, Italy and Spain.
Because of their warm disposition and affectionate nature, Bichon Frises make great therapy dogs. They have increasingly become popular as assistance dogs for people with hearing impediments because they are steadfast and easily trainable. Because they do not shed, they also work well as therapy dogs for people who suffer from allergies. These energetic little balls of cotton will be sure to appeal to even those most unsure of dogs.
After winning the crown at the 2008 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, one of the world’s most prestigious dog competitions, Uno the beagle decided to be more than just a handsome face; he completed training to become a certified therapy dog. After hobnobbing with former President George W. Bush and marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, Uno now spends time visiting people in hospitals, schools and nursing homes to brighten up their days.
Uno isn’t the only beagle to learn the skills needed to help others; rather, as a breed, beagles make excellent therapy dogs. Because they enjoy being around other dogs and new people, beagles are perfectly suited to be therapy dogs. Their friendly and curious nature helps them interact well with children and adults alike.
During World War II, a friend of an injured corporal in the United States Navy brought the solider a Yorkshire terrier puppy named Smokey. The pup had such incredible effect on the morale of both the corporal and the other injured soldiers in the ward that the doctor, Dr. Charles Mayo of the famed Mayo Clinic, began to take Smokey on his rounds. Smokey became the first-ever therapy dog.
Yorkshire terriers, also known as Yorkies, are easy to transport, and they love interacting with people. Despite their diminutive size, these pooches are brave and love to investigate their surroundings. Their big personalities and energetic nature make them perfect therapy dogs.