How Therapy Dogs Help Troubled Teens
Therapy dogs help people with many issues, but did you know they can help teens deal with problems like depression, ADHD and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? A scientific study has shown that being around dogs can improve the moods of teens in residential treatment centers. Find out how our furry friends are improving the lives of kids who could use a little extra help.
Dogs Increase Happiness
Not surprisingly, dogs can make teens feel happier and more well-adjusted. According to a 2013 study, being around dogs helps teens deal with a variety of issues, including depression and ADHD, because it leads to the release of feel-good chemicals in their brains.
More science explains why that's so important for troubled teens. A study published in 2003 showed that the levels of happiness-inducing chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin increase in our brains after interacting with dogs — and the levels of stress-related chemicals like cortisol decreased. Chemicals like dopamine help teens feel jovial and less depressed. Plus, the dogs experienced an increase in these feel-good chemicals too. As if their undying affection wasn't evidence enough.
Dogs Help Teens Feel Responsible
Several pet rescue organizations offer programs for at-risk teens dealing with behavioral issues. One such organization, Toledo's PET Bull Project, has an initiative called the "Teacher's Pet." This program allows teens to interact with dogs and train them to be canine good citizens so the pups are more attractive to potential adopters.
Another organization, Corridor Rescue, offers a program called "Project HEEL." Troubled teens in the program teach basic obedience to dogs, many of whom have been the victims of animal cruelty. Participants even learn American Sign Language to train hearing-impaired pups.
Not only does the interaction between teens and pups improve the social behavior of the dogs and the teens, but it also gives the kids a sense of responsibility. And they get to give back to the community by helping their canine students find forever homes.
Dogs Help Teens Cope With Stress
Having a therapy dog around can reduce stress for teens dealing with difficult issues. A study published in 2012 found child and teen survivors of abuse who worked with therapy dogs had fewer symptoms of trauma, including depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Dogs not only help reduce symptoms of stress, they even make therapy more effective for teens who have experienced a traumatic event or difficult childhood. One study, published in 2015 showed troubled teens who interacted with therapy dogs exhibited fewer behavioral issues, did better in school and developed better social skills.
Science has shown us dogs really are a teen's best friend, but you probably already knew that. These four-legged wonders can put at-risk teens on the path to a better life with their unconditional love. And, when teens and pups interact, both parties win.
Dogs with such incredible gifts deserve the gift of Milk-Bone® Original Biscuits. How do you treat your deserving dog?
Photo Credits: PET Bull Project
Explore more articles
7 Things That Can Stress Out Your Pet
Keeping the Muddy Paws off of Your Floor
With a little planning, your home can remain clean(ish) even on rainy spring days.