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What is a Therapy Dog?

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Published 08/07/2021
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What is a therapy dog?

We are a nation of dog lovers.

With many people working from home the demand for a four legged friend has never been as high. There is no better feeling than the unconditional love of a dog; they seem to have a sixth sense for when you're feeling a little blue. For some dogs this personality trait isn't just cute, it's part of their job.
A therapy dog is used to benefit us humans in a supportive, reassuring, therapeutic way. Some therapy dogs do not require any specialist training, simply being obedient is often enough to qualify a dog as a therapy dog.

There are no specific breed requirements for a dog to become a therapy dog either, as long as your dog is obedient with a loving temperament - but not too boisterous - they might make a suitable therapy dog.
Therapy dogs are used in many areas of society, from schools to recovery, counselling and therapy clinics. Believe it or not, some Funeral Directors are even 'employing' therapy dogs to help comfort grieving families.

Meet Basil - the funeral therapy dog

The Mirror recently introduced us to Basil the Beagle, who has a 'starring role as a Comfort Companion' at Clive Pugh Funeral Directors in Shrewsbury.

Beautiful Basil is eleven years old, having joined the family business aged six back in 2016. As a natural healer, Basil sits beside families as they make funeral plans, accompanies families to the Chapel of Rest when they visit their loved ones and attends funerals in churches and crematoriums; sitting beside the entrance in the hope his presence will calm mourners as they say their final farewell to their loved one.

Basil's owner Rosalinda told The Mirror:

“Human beings can, understandably, feel uncomfortable when dealing with grief and loss. Basil follows the lead of service dogs often used in health care settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes.

“When families are arranging the funeral of their loved, their minds tend to be all over the place. Basil is very perceptive and seems to know that they need to be comforted and as such will sit beside them letting them pat him and stroke him. You can really feel the tension leaving the room."

"This kind of support is vital and families often remark on how helpful having Basil has been for them."
“He is a real ice-breaker. He greets people when they arrive and he automatically seems to put people at ease. It feels almost normal for them to be able to stroke a dog. If people come with young children, he helps distract them too so they can fuss him while their parents make arrangements," says Rosalinda.

“We affectionately call Basil our ‘Comfort Companion.’ He provides families with unconditional love and support, as well as a subtle distraction from grief. When you have lost a loved one, sometimes it seems like nothing can make you feel better. That is, until you get a cuddle from a therapy dog. We hope that for those experiencing grief when they come to us, having Basil will put smiles on their faces, at least for a moment. It’s just something to lighten the load of that journey.”

Over the past five years at Clive Pugh Funeral Directors Basil has comforted hundreds of grieving families. His adoring owner told Mirror reporters Rachel Mainwaring & Julie Hill 'he (Basil) has a special sense of what is needed when people are suffering from loss'. During this time Basil has also found time to become something of a local celebrity, including an appearance on ITV's This Morning.

To read more about brilliant Basil, visit for the full story.

Can my dog become a therapy dog?

If you think your K9 companion might have what it takes to become a therapy dog, there are two main organisations here in the UK: Pets as Therapy in England and Therapet in Scotland. You can also donate to both organisations to support the work of therapy dogs, or volunteer to assist with a therapy programme.
For more delicious dog stories, photos and dog friendly businesses, head over to Team Dogs.

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