Therapy Dogs Help Members Stress Less


The North Boroughs YMCA hosted five certified therapy dogs from Animal Friends’ Therapets program Monday, encouraging members to engage with the furry friends and reap the calming benefits of pet therapy. Cooper, Tex, Scout, Arya and Willie, along with their respective handlers, each had a one-hour shift in the NoBo Y, doling out puppy kisses and obliging belly rubs. 

The event was part of the August programming for STRESS LESS MONTH across the eight branches of the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh. 

When not handled properly, stress can have negative effects on your body including: increased heartbeat, headaches, stiff neck and/or tight shoulders, back pain, fast breathing, increased sweating and upset stomach. During STRESS LESS MONTH at the Y, work to reduce your stress by engaging in special highlighted classes that focus on stress reduction and relaxation to work your spirit, mind, and body.

YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh branches are highlighting ways to reduce stress with classes like yoga and water therapy, as well as handing out coloring book pages and offering opportunities such as pet therapy.

According to the Therapet website, pet therapy has been shown to lower blood pressure, lessen pain and release endorphins. It can also reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as jog the memories of individuals experiencing memory loss. The feeling of soft fur can be pleasurable for individuals with limited or lost vision and sometimes a cold, wet nose is all you need to spread smiles in an otherwise gloomy situation. 

The Therapet program at Animal Friends impacts tens of thousands of lives each year with the healing power of animals. Each of the pet therapy teams undergoes special training and certification to ensure they are a good fit for the program. Accompanied by their human handlers, these dogs, cats and rabbits visit hospitals, specialized care facilities, college campuses and other locations throughout the region.

Not to be confused with service or emotional support animals, a therapy animal is any companion animal who has undergone training and certification to provide comfort and affectionate support to someone other than their owner.