November 04, 2014 Healthy Living

A Helping Paw: How Dogs Keep Us Healthy

Therapy Dogs Share Love, Healthy Companionship with Those Who Need It Most

Dogs are often called “man’s best friend,” but they’re in it for much more than friendship. In fact, studies show that children with autism or other serious illnesses might relate to dogs more easily and openly than they do with other humans. Sometimes, when a child is depressed or anxious, he or she will talk to dogs or pet them as an emotional release.

Even healthy adults can benefit from pet ownership. In fact, one study revealed that pet owners could have lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol than non-owners. One of the best things a pet owner can do is share the joy of having a dog with those in need through a therapy dog program.


What is a therapy dog program?

Therapy Dog

This type of program involves specially trained dogs that visit and interact with nursing home residents, as well as patients at hospitals and other facilities. A prime example is Jenna, Union College’s therapy dog. Students and staff can visit this affectionate and cheerful pup to relax, play, or just have someone to talk to. According to the college website, Jenna is a great listener, loves to play with anything that squeaks, and her favorite food is peanut butter.

Troy Police Chief John Tedesco also understands the love people can get from a therapy dog. He brings his dog Knox to St. Peter’s Hospital on Sundays so that patients, physicians, and nurses can smile, laugh, and relieve stress. And, Knox gets his fair share of pats and cuddles, too!

Could your dog be a therapy dog?

If you think that your pup has what it takes to make a difference, check out these therapy dog training and visiting programs for more information:

Therapy Dogs International (Schenectady Chapter) (also on Facebook)

ASPCA Animal Assisted Therapy Programs

Mohawk Hudson Humane Society

All Dawgs Training Services

The Good Dog Foundation

Hudson Valley Visiting Pet Program

Health benefits of pets

Most pets not only encourage you to be more active, they also can have a calming, stress-reducing, positive impact on your mood. Having a meaningful relationship with a pet can help your body release a relaxation hormone, as well as decrease your stress hormone levels. Here are just a few health benefits from having pets:

Healthy heart: Becoming a dog owner can motivate you to walk more, which helps lower your blood pressure. Studies show that heart attack survivors and other people with heart conditions who have dogs live longer than those with the same conditions who are not pet owners.

Socializing: People love dogs. If you’re walking down the street alone, the odds are pretty good that people passing by might smile and say hello, but they will generally keep walking and not strike up a conversation. Dogs are a great social magnet – if you’re walking a dog, those same people will be tempted to stop, give it a friendly pat, and chat with you. Dogs provide a means for interacting with people and perhaps making some new friends in your community.

Babies’ immune systems: Baby with PuppyResearch has shown that babies who live in households with pets might have fewer allergies and a reduced asthma risk. As well, babies who grow up with cats and dogs have fewer colds and ear infections in their first year than those who live in pet-free homes.


Finding the right pet for you

If you’re not a dog owner but are considering it, how do you find the right pup? You have lots to consider regarding the type of dog you choose – such as whether or not you have young children, how much time you have to spend with your pet, what kind of outdoor space is readily available, and how much exercise a particular breed needs to thrive, among other things.

If you’re interested in exploring your options, staff at a number of local animal shelters and rescues is eager to talk with you. Taking in an unwanted or abandoned animal is a huge, but very special, endeavor. The specialists at the organizations listed below will help you find exactly the right pet for your family and lifestyle.

Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, Menands

Berkshire Humane Society, Pittsfield, Ma.

Capital District Humane Association, Loudonville

Animal Protective Foundation, Schenectady

Saratoga County Animal Shelter, Ballston Spa

Heaven Sent Animal Rescue, Glenville

Friends of Phoebie Animal Rescue, Inc., Queensbury

Ayres Animal Shelter, Sprakers

Estherville Animal Shelter, Greenfield Center, NY

The SPCA of Upstate New York, Queensbury

Eleventh Hour Rescue-NY, Wilton

Regional Animal Shelter, Gloversville

Peppertree Rescue, Albany

HOPE, Wilton

Second Chance Animal Center, Shaftsbury, Vermont

Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA, Hudson

Montgomery County SPCA, Amsterdam

Sonsini Animal Shelter, Pittsfield, Ma.

Rensselaer County Humane Society, East Nassau
Adopt a dog

Adopt me!

Check out these featured pets from local organizations! See one that you’d like to know more about? Contact the shelter or rescue for more information.

Adopt Jax




10-month-old beagle mix
Very active, likes other dogs, loves people
Available from Mohawk Hudson Humane Society

Adopt Rosie





4-year-old Anatolian Shepherd
Loves people, likes some dogs but not all
Available from Mohawk Hudson Humane Society

Adopt Sweet Pea






Sweet Pea

3-year-old Lab mix
Friendly, loves people
Available from Mohawk Hudson Humane Society




Adopt Ricky


11-year-old pug mix
Neutered male, very sweet and good with other dogs and cats
Owner became ill and had to give him up
Would do well in a home without a lot of stairs
Available from Capital District Humane Association

Adopt Johnny






8-year-old male pug mix
Quiet and sweet, good with other dogs
Available from Capital District Humane Association


Suzanne Huwe
About the Author

Suzanne is senior editor for the corporate communications department at CDPHP. Prior, she worked as a national campaign coordinator at the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, DC, and as a copy editor and special sections editor at The Tampa Tribune. Suzanne earned a bachelor’s in economics from SUNY Fredonia and a master’s in multimedia journalism from American University. When she’s not fine-tuning others’ writing and her own, Suzanne enjoys running, traveling, scuba diving, and hanging out with her dogs and husband.

4 Responses to “A Helping Paw: How Dogs Keep Us Healthy”

  1. Gaye M Mastrianni

    Schenectady Dog Training Club holds classes for Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog Internatioal for those interested in having their dog
    become a Therapy Dog. My 8 y/o Husky/Golden mix Shelby belongs to the local TDI Chapter and we visit the local colleges and hospitals.

    • Suzanne

      Thanks for your comment, Gaye, and I apologize for my delayed response. This is helpful information for anyone considering a therapy dog program.

  2. Richard Ehrenberg

    Yeah, great for health. My GF got a dog, he tripped me in the yard during the summer, I fell, and was sore for weeks. Now he tripped her, she has a badly torn rotator cuff, may need surgery, costing her time off from work, co-pays, and lots of pain and therapy. Also costing CDPHP lots of $$$.

    And…as usual, your list of animal shelters totally ignores those of us in the southern reaches of your member area. You mean there’s no shelters in Newburgh, Middletown, Poughkeepsie, Fishkill, or even New Paltz or Kingston? Really? Typical CDPHP ‘redlining’.

    • Suzanne Huwe

      Thank you for your comment, Richard. We’re so sorry to hear that you’ve suffered injury because of pet-related incidents. I do hope that you and your girlfriend have recovered and are enjoying having pets.

      As for the geographic scope of the piece, it was the intent of this particular post to focus on the greater Capital Region. However, we care wholeheartedly about our members in the outlying areas and will keep that top of mind for upcoming topics.

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