Drug Rehabilitation Blog


Furry Rehabilitation: How Dogs are Helping Patients Recover

Posted by Myra Davis to Treatment

Aidan entered drug rehab with a lot of skepticism. He knew he needed help, but he worried about handling detox, getting along with his therapist, and making new friends. But as soon as he checked in and met Rinaldo, Aidan felt better. Rinaldo’s not the intake counselor, therapist, or resident: He’s the rehab’s pet therapy dog. Whether you’re looking at drug rehab options for yourself or a loved one, wonder if your dog could help others, or simply love dogs, learn more about pet rehabilitation.


How Are Rehab Dogs Trained?

Ideally, therapy dog training begins at 16 weeks or four months of age. We all know puppies can be cute at that age, but they’re also ready to be separated from their litter and receptive to training. However, dogs of any age may qualify for therapy work. Likewise, any trainer can prepare pets to work in a rehab.

Additionally, an animal from any dog breed can be a therapy dog. That’s because all trained therapy dogs exhibit common characteristics. They are:

  • Leash, crate, and house-trained
  • Well-socialized around people and other dogs
  • Relaxed around noise, traffic, and medical equipment like crutches or wheelchairs
  • Obedient and compliant
  • Able to stay, sit, and heel on command
  • Mannerly and do not jump, bite, lick, growl, sniff, or bark inappropriately
  • Medically healthy
  • Used to being groomed, washed, and clipped

How Are Rehab Dogs Evaluated?

Once a potential therapy dog is trained, it’s ready to take the 10-step test and pass the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Program. It ensures that the dog is gentle, mannerly, obedient, and socialized. This program also tests the dog’s ability to work well with a handler.

Next, therapy dogs are evaluated by a therapy dog association. This evaluation ensures that the pets have the temperament and training they need to serve successfully in a rehab setting.

How Are Rehab Dogs Placed?

Rehabs can buy a trained pet, train their own dog, or use a trained dog that lives in a private residence nearby. That means you could sell your trained and certified pet to a facility. Or, if you live near a rehab, your trained pet could go to work helping people recover.

What Are the Benefits of Pet Rehabilitation?

I personally appreciate the fact that any dog, including rescued adult dogs, can be used for therapy in drug rehabs. These animals deserve a chance to be valued and to share their unconditional love. The dogs aren’t the only ones who benefit from pet rehabilitation, though.

Studies show that pet therapy can reduce the blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels of a recovering addict who likes dogs. It can also lower anxiety, tension, and anger. Pet rehab can increase endorphins, empowerment, and compassion while improving social function, self-esteem, and patience. I’ve seen dozens of recovering addicts transition from selfish to selfless, detached to attached, and hostile to friendly just because they spent time talking to and playing with a therapy animal.

Whether you’re entering drug rehab or looking for a way to make a difference, consider pet rehabilitation. A furry friend opens doors in a recovering addict’s life that people sometimes can’t. Tonight, give your dog an extra treat and be thankful for the pets who participate in furry rehabilitation and encourage addiction recovery.


  • Amanda

    Oh, how great! Dogs are so fantastic and having them on the rehabilitation aspect of addiction is brilliant in my viewpoint. I mean you see people all the time that use dogs for therapy, guidance and just plain companionship. A dog gives people something that one a dog can give with unconditional love and all of the heath benefits that are mentioned in this article. It is astounding that both human and dog will be able to help each other get along in life. I think pets are helpful and amazing in any human’s life, let alone a person trying to overcome one of the hardest things in life. Dogs are just amazing that way!!

  • Walter

    I absolutely love dogs!!! It is also really neat to see how it is that dogs can help addicts to recover. It has been long known the value that a dog has in recovery or assistance, and they have been used for a long time to help the needy. The fact that a dog can help with blood pressure is simply amazing to me. I also think it is key as it gives you a sense of companionship that can be desperately needed when things get rough. It also works to add a sense of responsibility that is vital to ensuring that there are no slip ups. The feeling that one must take care of a dog is vital and can also be a reason to stay clean and sober. It just goes to show you that there are many different ways that you can work to have a healthy recovery and it is vital to use any tool that you can use in order to get a person back to a state that they need to be in for complete healing.

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