What Are the Best Breeds of Dogs for Therapeutic Visits in Hospitals?

In the world of service animals, dogs are the superheroes. They provide support and comfort to people in need and are known to be great allies for therapy. Dogs are often trained to assist people dealing with emotional or mental health issues, and certain breeds are known to be particularly suited for this purpose. Today, let’s delve into the fascinating world of therapy dogs and identify the best dog breeds for therapeutic visits in hospitals.

The Role and Effectiveness of Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are not just ordinary canines. They undergo rigorous training to provide comfort, affection, and emotional support to individuals who need it the most. These animals play a crucial role in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and even disaster areas.

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Therapy dogs can significantly help to reduce stress and anxiety levels, alleviate feelings of loneliness, and promote overall well-being. Studies have shown that the simple act of petting a dog can lower blood pressure, slow down heart rate, and boost levels of serotonin and dopamine – the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes the value of therapy dogs and promotes their utilization in various situations. They help children struggling with reading aloud by providing a non-judgmental listener, and they provide comfort to people undergoing medical procedures or treatments.

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Choosing the Right Breed for Therapy Work

When it comes to selecting a breed for therapy work, the dog’s temperament is often more important than its breed. However, certain breeds are popularly used as therapy dogs due to their inherently calm and friendly nature.

The ideal therapy dog should be patient, gentle, friendly, and at ease in all situations. They should be comfortable around people, medical equipment, and the hustle and bustle of hospital settings. These dogs should also have a good level of obedience and be able to follow commands without hesitation.

Golden Retrievers: The Gold Standard for Therapy Dogs

Golden Retrievers are one of the best breeds for therapy dogs, and for good reason. These dogs are well-known for their friendly and tolerant behavior. Goldens are highly intelligent, easy to train, and eager to please – qualities that make them great for therapy work.

Golden Retrievers are often used in hospital settings due to their calm demeanor and their ability to adapt quickly to new situations. Patients often find their soft fur comforting to touch, and their expressive eyes can provide emotional support when words fail. Goldens are also typically categorized as an "allergy-friendly" breed, which makes them an excellent choice for hospital visits.

Labrador Retrievers: Born to Serve

Labrador Retrievers are another breed often chosen for therapeutic visits in hospitals. These dogs are friendly, outgoing, and great with people. Labs are enthusiastic workers and are known for their ability to get along well with children and adults alike.

Labradors are also highly intelligent and have a keen desire to work. This breed has a natural ability to sense human emotions and respond appropriately, making them an excellent choice for emotional support. Labradors’ eager-to-please attitude and their resilence to stress are qualities that make them perfect for the unpredictable environment of a hospital.

Poodles: Intelligence and Versatility

Poodles are not just for show – they are intelligent, versatile, and perfect for therapy work. This breed comes in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy, which allows them to fit into various therapy environments. Poodles are known for their intelligence, making them easy to train for a variety of tasks.

Poodles are also hypoallergenic, which is a significant advantage in a hospital setting where allergies may be a concern. Their approachable demeanor and natural ability to sense emotions make them great companions for those in need of emotional support.

In conclusion, it’s clear that therapy dogs contribute greatly to the well-being of those in need. Dogs like Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Poodles have the ideal temperaments for this work, but in reality, any dog breed that can provide comfort and emotional support can be considered for therapy work.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels: The Comfort Specialists

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a tiny bundle of love and comfort, is another breed well-suited to therapy work. Named after King Charles II of England, this dog breed has a rich history and is revered for its sweet, gentle nature and ability to form strong bonds with humans.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are small in size, making them an excellent choice for therapy in environments where a larger dog may be overwhelming. They are known for their friendly and affectionate demeanor, and their ability to adapt to new people and situations is second to none. These dogs have a knack for sensing their handler’s emotions and responding in a soothing, comforting manner.

Like the Poodle, Cavaliers are also hypoallergenic, making them well-suited for hospital visits where allergies could be a concern. Despite their small size, these dogs pack a lot of love, and their soft, silky fur is often a source of comfort for those who pet them. Their ability to provide emotional support and their pleasant nature make the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel an ideal therapy dog.

How to Train a Dog for Therapy Work

Training a dog for therapy work is an important step to ensure they can function well in diverse environments. It is crucial to remember that not all dogs are cut out for therapy work. Dogs that are scared of loud noises or are uncomfortable around strangers may not be suitable for this role.

Regardless of the breed, an excellent therapy dog must be calm, patient, and affectionate. Training starts from puppyhood. It’s essential to expose the dog to many different experiences, environments, and people to foster their socialization skills.

Dogs in training are taught basic obedience commands, and they must be able to perform these commands reliably before becoming a therapy dog. Training should also include acclimating the dog to hospital equipment and sounds to ensure they can remain calm and perform their duties in these environments.

It’s important to remember that a therapy dog should enjoy their work. A dog that is enthusiastic about their job will be more effective in providing comfort and emotional support to those who need it.


Therapy dogs play a vital role in providing comfort, companionship, and emotional support to people in need. The immense contributions these dogs make to human health and wellbeing cannot be overstated.

While Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Poodles are often considered the best therapy dogs due to their inherent characteristics, it’s important to remember that other breeds, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, can also excel at therapy work.

Ultimately, the best therapy dog is one that displays a calm and friendly demeanor, is easy to train, and can offer comfort and support to those in need. The bond that forms between a therapy dog and the person they are assisting is powerful, providing emotional support and comfort when it’s needed the most.

Regardless of breed, the magic of therapy dogs lies in their ability to sense our needs, offering a furry shoulder to lean on, and a friendly paw to hold, making our world a better, kinder place.

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