Updated: October 13th, 2022
Fun aside, there’s so much your golden retriever can provide you with. Top on the list is improving your well-being. This is actually what golden retriever therapy dogs do best.
Ask any goldie owner about how their furry friend makes them feel and you will see happy faces and hear positive feedback. The benefits to the mind and soul are endless.
Here’s an interesting fact: Anxiety and depression have been found to be lower among goldie owners, mostly because of the comfort and friendship they provide. Yet, that’s only a piece of the puzzle; there’s much more to it, and that’s what this article is all about.
Your golden retriever might just be the most valuable companion you have right now. I know you may have doubts about that, so let’s look into the facts. But before that, it would be best if you fully understand what a therapy dog is.
Golden Retriever Therapy Dogs: A Definition
Just as the name implies, these are dogs used to make treatment outcomes better in a therapeutic setting. They provide comfort and attention to those battling various health challenges, both physical and mental.
Some are trained to complete specific tasks and provide therapeutic services while others are just kind, well-behaved dogs.
Goldens are an excellent choice for a therapy dog because of their behavior and qualities. They are social, fun-loving, and friendly to just about anyone. Also, they are so gentle, loyal, and intelligent enough to be trained for different tasks.
A goldie therapy dog will even accept hugs from strangers and remain calm and friendly even when there’s so much going on around them. Here’s part of what therapy dogs generally do:
- Visit people in nursing and retirement homes, hospitals, hospice, etc. to provide companionship
- Comfort children in crisis
- Give seizure alerts for people suffering from epilepsy
- Work as assistance dogs for people with sensory limitations and disabilities
- Help people dealing with post-traumatic stresses to cope better with their situation
Animal assisted therapy (AAT) and animal-assisted activities are growing fields, and so far, therapy dogs have dominated the space because of their effectiveness in improving the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the people with whom they interact.
It is, therefore, safe to say that the benefits therapy dogs offer are priceless. I’ll break them down into two categories to help you understand this.
Mental health touches on so many areas, and there are some that golden retrievers are so effective in addressing. I’ll take a look at a few.
Care And Support For PTSD Patients
Once you experience a traumatizing or shocking event in life, like the death of someone you hold dear or combat experience, getting back to your usual self is tough. The next thing you will be dealing with is panic or anxiety attacks, nervousness, abrupt mood swings, and so on.
Maybe this is a situation you are well familiar with or you know someone who is struggling with PTSD. Whichever the case, the best thing you could do to cope better with such experiences is to spend quality time with a therapy dog.
Not only are you going to receive plenty of emotional support but also conquer your anxiety. You don’t need to explain to a therapy dog how you feel; some will easily figure out how you feel and help you recover from the situation that is troubling you.
Reducing Stress & Anxiety
Whenever you pet or interact positively with a dog, you will notice your stress or anxiety decrease. That’s because such an experience triggers the release of oxytocin, which is a stress-reducing hormone.
Endorphine is the other healthier hormone released in the process. It helps to minimize perceptions of anxiety and/or pain.
That aside, nearly every human being craves touch. Sometimes you may want to hug, stroke, or touch a loving animal. Dogs make the best companions in this situation. They will ease your loneliness, calm and soothe you, making sure you are enjoying every bit of your time with them.
In the company of a golden retriever therapy dog, you are less likely to feel lonely. You will be so immersed in the present, pushing back all the anxious or negative thoughts that may trigger depression.
Dogs themselves tend to fully concentrate on the present, with little to no concern for the future. They never care about what occurred yesterday or may happen the day after. This part of their personality will help you fully appreciate and make the most of every present moment.
Now, that’s not where it ends. There’s a whole list of other emotional and psychiatric disorders and challenges a therapy dog can help to treat, including bipolar disorder, autism, Alzheimer’s, and cerebral palsy, just to name a few.
Improving Physical Health
Golden retrievers are fun-loving dogs. Because they are playful, you will find yourself busy and immersed in healthy activities that will benefit both of you from taking leisurely walks to hiking together. It will actually be easier to follow your exercise routine when you have such a dog for company.
Spending time together will also deepen your bond, leading to a healthier relationship that will bring you happiness.
Lowering Blood Pressure
Common culprits behind high blood pressure include high stress levels and anxiety. You already know how therapy dogs help to fix these two issues. And when they do so, your blood pressure goes down, saving you from further complications that could have resulted from this condition, such as stroke.
Improving Cardiovascular Health
The increase in heart complications has largely been attributed to the rise in stress levels and poor lifestyle choices. It could have been worse, but therapy dogs have made the situation better.
What they do is provide therapy to patients with heart disease. Research shows that pet-assisted therapy boosts cardiopulmonary pressures and neurohormone levels while managing stress and anxiety in patients with heart failure.
Other physical conditions therapy dogs can help with include:
- Hearing or visual difficulties
- Seizure disorders
Frequently Asked Questions About Therapy Golden Retrievers
Can golden retrievers sense sadness?
Yes, your golden retriever knows when you are sad. There are studies showing that dogs are clever enough to detect when the owner is not just sad but also happy, ill, stressed, or even pregnant.
Some researchers even believe that goldies have a mind similar to that of a toddler when it comes to cognitive and emotional abilities. They can tell your emotion by simply looking at your facial expression. Another way they do so is by smelling the hormones humans produce when happy, such as oxytocin, dopamine, or serotonin.
Thereafter, they will show their empathy by touching the owner or giving them space.
How do I make my golden retriever a therapy dog?
As much as goldens already have qualities that make for great therapy dogs, there’s more you have to do to make them better. Some golden retrievers actually have to be left to mature first and get full control of themselves before you expose them to any advanced training.
Once they have developed the basic skills needed to begin therapy training, start the process. You can do this on your own or with help from a dog trainer. If you go for the latter option, make sure the trainer has evidence to back up their professional experience and competence.
There are plenty of guides and books out there to help you do this right if you opt to train the dog on your own.
Final Thoughts About Therapy Golden Retrievers
What we’ve looked at are just a handful of the benefits that therapy dogs offer. Studies continue to be carried out, showing so many other ways therapy dogs can help to improve our mental and physical health. Where other treatments have failed in helping a person recover from situations that are mentally draining, therapy dogs have excelled.
Yet, so far, we have only scratched the surface with regard to the potential such dogs have in the treatment of various diseases and disorders. As a goldie owner, never forget that you have a friend that can bring comfort, peace, and happiness to you and so many other people out there.
Training or raising your goldie to be a therapy dog can be a time-consuming and tiring experience, but the rewards that await outweigh any drawbacks. You will have a loyal, gentle, and friendly dog that’s going to help not just you but others as well, in living fulfilling lives and addressing mental health.