The utmost dog lovers know that the presence of a dog alone can have a major boost in your mood. The second you get home after a long day, their excitement shows by their wagging tail and cheerful bark. Dogs make great companions in home environments, but are also changing the game for addiction treatment centers.

The road to recovery is a long one and can be lonesome for a lot of people. Healthy Life Recovery’s addiction rehab welcomes emotional support dogs in our facilities located in San Diego, CA. These specially trained dogs provide therapeutic benefits in these clinical and assisted living environments. We find therapy dog programs help make good progress for those receiving addiction and mental health treatment.

Therapy Dog Vs. Service Dog

Although people tend to use therapy and service dogs interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. Therapy dogs are trained animals who tend to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and rehab centers. They help relieve stress and increase dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in feelings of pleasure. The companionship of a therapy dog can bring you happiness and joy, while battling a physical and mental illness.

Service animals are supported by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and perform tasks for handicapped people. These are people who have a condition that restricts their ability to perform functions physically, mentally, or socially, and can benefit from the services provided by the dog. Since these animals have higher qualifications and duties than therapy dogs, they are not considered pets.

Therapy dog

Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a therapy technique that involves an animal and can be in an individual or group setting. The type of animal recommended is typically advised by a veterinarian behaviorist or animal behaviorist. A therapy animal such as a dog must be in good physical health and treated properly by its owner. 

Getting certified as a therapy dog can be tricky, and certain organizations can be useful to help this process. Some organizations that help train animals and provide final certification for therapy include:

During the treatment process, you can have animal interaction, whether that is done with play, petting, or even just sitting next to them. Engagement with therapy dogs increases oxytocin levels, a hormone that facilitates bonding. Just the look of them alone can help break down any obstacles. Animal-assisted therapy can help during addiction treatment with anxiety, fear, and daily life activities.

Although the concept of AAT seems like a new phenomenon, only the term itself is. Animals have been used for therapeutic reasons for centuries. Dr. Sigmund Freud realized that most of his patients found the presence of a dog during therapy sessions quite calming. Going back even farther, the Ancient Greeks would use the presence of horses to help heal the ill and raise their spirits.

Therapy dog

Benefits Of Dogs During Therapy

Dogs are truly a man’s best friend. Having companionship during rehab can contribute to a person’s happiness and learning to live and love again. Having interactions with a dog during addiction therapy and the recovery process has many benefits. Therapy dogs not only help people recover from drug and alcohol abuse, but they can also offer:

  • Companionship: Addiction is a disease that can feel very lonely. People battling addiction and substance use disorders (SUD) tend to isolate and distance themselves. A lot of times, making new friends after rehab can be challenging. Therapy dogs can provide companionship during the recovery process.
  • Unconditional Love: Feeling loved or feeling that you are loveable can be challenging in a rehab center. The effects of drugs, alcohol, and other substances are a lot to deal with. Dogs are beautiful creatures that offer unconditional love and do not judge. 
  • Exercise: Most animals need some sort of playtime and exercise. You can get great exercise and movement by walking a therapy dog or playing catch with them.
  • Stress relief: It is proven that the act of petting an animal relieves stress. Serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness, are released when petting a dog. Serotonin is also responsible for lowering blood pressure. 
  • Responsibility: No matter how tired or sick you are feeling, therapy dogs need to be cared for at the end of the day. Dogs require regular walks, meals, and grooming, which teaches the responsibility of caring for someone else. 

Do You Need A Special Type?

You might be wondering if there is a certain type of dog breed that works best in rehab therapy. Well, there isn’t one special dog breed used in addiction therapy or animal-assisted therapy. Any dog of your choice works wonders as long as they are kind, friendly, and behave well in a group setting. 

The two main components of what makes a good therapy dog is personality and training. The dog has to master a few skills such as obedience, social, and pack leader training. Although there is not a special type of therapy dog, there are certain breeds that are known to traditionally master those skills. A few popular therapy dog breeds include:

  • Labrador Retriever: These calm, sweet and patient dogs love to be around people. You will always feel the love.
  • German Shepherd: Besides being easy to train, this breed is highly intelligent, obiedate, and also gentle.
  • Greyhound: Quite, gentle and sweet, these dogs are ideal for addiction therapy. They can bring a calming and relaxing energy into a room.
  • Poodle: Known to be fluffy and very intelligent, this breed has tons of energy. Poodles make good therapy dogs because of their stamina and liveliness.
Therapy dog

A dog that comes off skittish, aggressive or stubborn, will not qualify as a certified therapy dog.  It is best to do your own research about what type of dog you are looking for. Some people may prefer a small dog breed while others want a large therapy dog. There are several small dog breeds that are fit for therapy training and are just as effective as the bigger players.

  • Beagle: These extremely cute and happy dogs tend to make people feel less nervous around them than larger dogs commonly used in the police force.
  • Pug: Their personality will charm you. They are easy-going, sociable and love to cuddle. 
  • Corgi: Happy, personable, and always eager to please. This dog is excited to learn the ways of therapy. 
  • French Bulldog: This breed has a big personality, and always has a smile on their face. They are clever fellas and love to meet new people.

Recover From Drug And Alcohol Addiction

If you are battling an addiction with drugs or alcohol, there are treatment programs available in the San Diego area. At Healthy Life Recovery, we want to help you overcome any addiction and mental health issues you are struggling with. Pet therapy, and choosing a therapy dog that best fits your needs, has many benefits during the recovery process. Give our treatment center a call today if you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol or substance use disorder.

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