How Can a Therapy Dog Help Seniors?

As the world’s populations shifts to more people over the age of 65 than ever before, healthcare providers are searching for new methods to help address some of the specific concerns of aging patients. There are many people for whom medication and therapy may not be enough to combat the need for daily assistance; but often in these cases, moving out of the home and into a nursing care facility isn’t necessary.

In addition to private healthcare providers that can visit the home every day, many seniors are exploring the idea of therapy dogs as a way to help them with their everyday needs. Dogs can be trained for many types of therapy, and their care is often more affordable than a private healthcare provider.

Limited Mobility

For those who suffer from arthritis, or limited mobility due to surgeries or injuries, a therapy dog can help retrieve items, assist in standing and sitting, and even open doors or perform basic chores. You may even find that the comfort of the dog’s warmth while sleeping helps relieve the pain of arthritis.

Diabetes and Heart Conditions

Many people who suffer from diabetes have a sort of blindness when it comes to their blood sugar. They can’t sense the drop in glucose levels the way an outsider, viewing their behavior, can. A dog can act as a warning signal for those who suffer from conditions like this, and assist in calling medical professionals if there is a need.


Anyone learning to live their life after losing part or all of their sight or hearing has probably already considered a therapy dog. Guide dogs can help a person stay in their home and active in the community much longer than they might be able to manage on their own.

Emotional Health

The way that a pet can often help with mental and emotional health cannot be ignored. Dogs require structure and routine, which helps give the day a purpose and direction for retired individuals who may find themselves without those vital things. Dogs are also very loyal and loving creatures, which offers people who may now be living alone for the first time in decades an important emotional connection.


Many doctors report that having a set-in-stone daily schedule can help those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s maintain a grip on reality. In addition to providing this daily routine, a dog can also alert medical professionals if a person’s behavior becomes erratic. Wandering is less of a concern because the dog will be trained to stay with the person at all times, and can alert help from anywhere.

Therapy Dog Breeds

Almost any dog breed can be trained to become a therapy dog, but it is true that certain breeds take to training better than others. The most common therapy dogs are Labradors and German Shepherds, but those are certainly not the only options.

Many seniors would be better off with a smaller dog that they can lift and carry if need be. Dogs like schnauzers, pugs, bichon frise, and cocker spaniels can all be great therapy animals. You may also wish to consider a dog breed that has been bred specifically to reduce allergens. Poodles, for example, don’t shed as much as other dogs, and can be a great option for allergy sufferers.

Large dogs are still worth checking out, especially if they are needed to help with sitting and standing. In addition to the common Lab or shepherd, a Saint Bernard or Rottweiler can both be excellent therapy dogs when properly trained.


The use of therapy dogs, in addition to other treatments, is one way to help a senior stay independent and happy into their golden years.