In a recent study, cortisol levels in therapy dogs were measured to see if they are actually enjoying their jobs. The researchers also looked at canine behaviors to see if they could detect any stress. The results showed that therapy dogs are no more stressed out or less friendly than regular dogs. The non-profit group Pet Partners has released therapy dog welfare guidelines to be used by the dogs? handlers to insure that their client has an advocate looking out for their best interests. Some examples of the duties of a therapy dog can include playing fetch with cancer patients or providing companionship to a child who has to testify in a courtroom.
- The cortisol levels measured in dogs were not heightened at all when tested in therapeutic settings.
- A company called Pet Partners has put welfare guidelines into place in order to protect the therapy dogs.
- Out of the 26 canine behaviors that were studied, stress was not one that was shown to rise when participating in therapy-related behaviors.
“Despite the popularity of therapy animals, little research has been done on whether dogs, who often find themselves purposefully incorporated into stressful environments, are negatively affected by their work.”