Focus Care

9 March, 2021

The 5 Best Dog Breeds for Pet Therapy

Pet therapy has become a popular form of therapy for people with disabilities, the elderly, and people with dementia. Whether you’re thinking of getting your very own dog to help people, or seeking pet therapy for yourself or a loved one, Focus Care has compiled a list of the top dog breeds for pet therapy.

What is pet therapy?

Pet therapy involves a trained animal engaging in guided interactions with people, with the purpose of healing and accompaniment. This practice has quickly built traction within the psychology world and is now recognised as providing several therapeutic benefits.

In the interest of full safety, the animal’s handler is present throughout a pet therapy session to ensure appropriate behaviour. There are two main forms of pet therapy – animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and animal-assisted activity (AAA). AAT is a more structured approach to pet therapy, whilst AAA is much more relaxed.


What are the benefits of pet therapy?

Pet therapy offers several benefits for its participants, including:

  • Improved mood and cognitive function

  • Increased quality of life

  •  Release of endorphins which provide feelings of happiness

  • Improved social behaviours and interactions

For a full list of benefits of pet therapy, click here.


What dog breeds are best for pet therapy?

Since dogs are the most popular animal for pet therapy, there are several different dog breeds which can be chosen to provide support. Each offers their own set of unique benefits, which we have outlined for you below.

 Two Labrador Retrievers standing in a park - Best Dog Breeds for Pet Therapy - Focus CareLabrador Retriever

Labs are arguably the most popular choice when it comes to its use as a therapy dog. These dogs are also the most popular breed of service dogs, meaning they possess qualities that would be beneficial to those seeking out pet therapy.

Labrador Retrievers are good-natured and versatile dogs, genuinely caring and striving to please those they are providing support for. These dogs are also relatively laid back, so they’re perfect for social aspects as well!

The set of personality traits that Labs can offer make them an ideal breed to provide support and comfort to those engaging in pet therapy, particularly in those with a disability. It’s why they topped this list too! Labs are obedient, socialised, and friendly – the perfect mix for a furry friend companion.

A Golden Retriever standing in a park - Best Dog Breeds for Pet Therapy - Focus CareGolden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are another popular choice for therapy dogs, carrying a similar demeanour to the Labrador Retriever. These loveable, popular dogs are top of the list for likeability and loyalty. Golden Retrievers are also extremely comforting dogs, and they have even been used to help people, especially children, recovering from trauma after tragedy.

Because of this, Golden Retrievers may be most suited to those who need pet therapy within a family, particularly one with children. They are gentle and attentive, but their discipline also makes them suited for adults too.

For children with autism and those with a history of trauma, Goldens are a perfect fit – their large size offers a sense of protection and their gentle demeanour can help with adjusting to the outside world.

A Beagle excitedly running in a park - Best Dog Breeds for Pet Therapy - Focus CareBeagle

Beagles are small to medium sized dogs, characterised by their floppy ears. Despite their good looks, beagles have amazing demeanour as well! By nature, they are calm and well-mannered, so training them for therapy purposes only enhances their natural personality.

Lovable and friendly dogs, they can be energetic and social, but also are just as content to cuddle up and rest – making them perfect for those who want a furry companion when immobile. Given that beagles are quite small dogs, they may be better suited to someone who lives in a smaller house or apartment.

Interestingly enough, beagles have an amazing sense of smell – especially when compared to other breeds of dogs. In some cases, they can even smell when your blood sugar is rapidly dropping! Dogs, however, need to be specially trained to alert you of this, and there are Diabetes Assist Dogs that may be more well suited to this task.

 A Poodle standing a kitchen - Best Dog Breeds for Pet Therapy - Focus CarePoodle

This wouldn’t be a complete list without mentioning poodles. Poodles may seem like an unlikely choice for therapy dogs, but they are one of the most intelligent dog breeds out there, and their eager-to-please personality is a definite standout in comparison to other dogs.

Some dog lovers with a disability have said that they would be most likely to foster a poodle, mainly due to their cooperative and pleasing nature. In terms of providing emotional support, the poodle has high concentration levels which allows for adequate training in providing therapy.

Overall, the confidence, persistence, and courage that poodles enable makes them a perfect fit for being a therapy dog. They can encourage habits and routine in humans, which may be of benefit to a person with a disability.

 A Pug standing on a step - Best Dog Breeds for Pet Therapy - Focus CarePug

Pugs are a perfect fit for being a therapy dog. Their cheerful and curious nature brings entertainment and joy to those who choose their emotional support. Pugs work particularly well with children that have various neurodevelopment disorders, such as autism, as they bond with children particularly well, and their enthusiasm is infectious.

It is also worth mentioning that these dogs are quite high energy, which may not be the best choice for someone who is seeking a more relaxed approach to pet therapy. For those who are looking for a buddy to play with, a pug may be the perfect choice!

The intelligence of a pug is not to be disregarded. A person with a disability may particularly benefit from a pug, as they have strong emotional senses and can provide comfort and support in times of distress.


Is pet therapy safe?

Pet therapy can be very safe when specific measures are put into place - such as hygiene and proper training. At Focus Care, our pet therapy animals are properly trained, immunised, and free from illness. We also adhere to standards of cleanliness and risk elimination. Our animals are also always accompanied by a handler and are properly trained to interpret and respond to human behaviours.

What if I have my own therapy dog and want to provide support through Focus Care?

We are always looking for more therapy dogs to join our team! If you have a trained therapy dog and live in NSW, Queensland, or Victoria, get in touch with us today and see how we can help you provide support.

How can Focus Care help?

Focus Care is proud to offer pet therapy services to NDIS and Home Care Package clients. We also offer this service privately. To find out how we can incorporate pet therapy into your own personalised support plan, contact us today.

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