You see them often—on planes, in grocery stores and many other places. As more people turn to animals to help them cope with things like anxiety, stress and PTSD, there are important things to know before selecting a dog to ensure it’ll fit your needs.
The NOW spoke with professional dog trainer Tyler Pagnoni, with The Dog Wizard, who helps turn anxious or aggressive dogs into well-trained friends.
Pagnoni, who has worked with all sorts of breeds, says hunting and gaming dogs tend not to be as receptive to human emotions as other dogs. However, golden retrievers and Labradors are an exception. Pagnoni says those two breeds can be trained to help people with anxiety or autism feel more comfortable in social settings.
If you have anxiety, Pagnoni says a great dog for you may be a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which are medium-sized and relaxed. The Dog Wizard also suggests German shepherds, which are very receptive to human instinct and can sense when you’re having a good or bad day.
And for one of the smartest dogs out there—Pagnoni recommends the poodle.
Unfortunately for the small dog lovers, the trainer suggests staying away from a Maltese or Yorkie. He says these breeds can be more anxious and stubborn. Pagnoni says owners often carry these breeds around similar to how people carry their children, so the dogs can develop their own separation anxiety.
Being a therapy dog is a lot of work, but a recent study in “Applied Animal Behavior Science” which looked at more than two dozen therapy dogs in pediatric cancer wards, found the pets weren’t stressed at all from the work. The study even found the dogs expressed joy.
Another new study out this week in the journal "Learning and Behavior" suggests dogs not only notice when someone is upset, they may also move more quickly to help them out. The study found dogs will move faster to be with their owners if the person is crying verses humming a song.