French Bulldogs are great companions who will love you un-conditionally. But do they make for good therapy dogs? Can they provide comfort, affection, and love to people with physical and mental illnesses, or those under a lot of stress? I believe so, and I believe every single Frenchie owner would say the same, but here’s some more detail.
Are French Bulldogs good therapy dogs? Frenchies are excellent therapy dogs as they are renowned for offering unconditional affection. They love human companionship and have a natural affinity for being around people. They are frequently taken to hospitals and care homes to cheer people up.
Why French Bulldogs make good therapy dogs
There are a number of reasons why Frenchies make for good therapy dogs. I’ve listed just a few of the reasons why they can offer comfort to people who need it.
- They are a small breed so can easily be lifted onto hospital beds and laps.
- They love people and are quick to offer affection.
- They are typically not an aggressive breed.
Do Frenchies need training as therapy dogs?
It really depends on the scenario. Some hospitals and care homes that have therapy dogs will insist that the proper training and safety checks have been carried out before letting the dog onto the premises.
However, you might have an elderly relative who would love you to bring your Frenchie over to visit them – this in itself could offer them therapy and comfort and would require no official training.
It goes without saying that a French Bulldog with behavioural issues and aggressive tendencies would not be allowed to be an official therapy dog in a professional setting.
If you do want your French Bulldog to be a therapy dog that can go into hospitals, care homes, and other such places where this role is a valuable service, then there are some things you need to do:
- Your dog will need a full health check from a vet.
- Your dog will need to have rabies vaccinations and proof of the shot.
- Your dog will need to undergo obedience training.
- Your dog will need to undergo socialisation training.
You can train your Frenchie to be a therapy dog yourself, but it will still need to be tested for reliability and competence before it can go into a public or professional environment.
To be an effective therapy dog, your French Bulldog will have to:
- Not react badly to loud noises.
- Be comfortable with sudden movements.
- Be comfortable around people of all ages.
- Be comfortable being handled by people with limited mobility.
There are some organisations who offer certified therapy dog training. Here’s a couple of the best:
Some will require payment; some will offer training for free.
Where Frenchies can work as therapy dogs
I’ve already touched on a few places where French Bulldogs can be therapy dogs. Here’s a more comprehensive list including reasons why they can come into their own.
My son had an operation a couple of years ago. There was this Golden Retriever who would come around the children’s ward. The dog had the biggest smiley face I have ever seen on a dog, and all the kids would be really excited when visited each day.
Hospitals frequently use therapy dogs to cheer up poorly and depressed patients. A visit from a Frenchie can really lift people’s spirits and are sure to relieve stress.
Nursing and care homes
Many old or infirm people value a visit from a therapy dog for a lot of the same reasons why they are used in hospitals.
When Frenchies enter care homes, they can sometimes help encourage poorly or elderly patients to get up and get some exercise.
There’s a care home near where we live, and the therapy dogs are used to get the older people up and walking around the grounds.
Handy Hint: Find out why we believe Frenchies are great companions for seniors.
Visits from therapy dogs have been found to help reduce stress hormones. Kids in care really value the visit from a dog – even more so if you have a Frenchie living with you (read more in this guide to Frenchies and children).
Therapy dogs have also been used in disaster zones. They can help to calm people and are known to offer some much-needed relief in times of trouble.
I can imagine how a French Bulldog could work really well as a therapy dog in this situation, can’t you?
Schools and colleges
There has even been research published that found kids who read to dogs actually start to learn quicker and better. You can read more about this on the Kennel Club’s website.
What’s the difference between therapy and service dogs?
The two terms are often confused, and people can mix up the roles regarding therapy and service. They are different though, and here’s a breakdown of how service and therapy dogs differ in what they do and provide.
What are service dogs?
Service dogs have been trained to help and support people with physical disabilities. That could be a blind, deaf, or wheelchair-bound person.
They are very specialised dogs that have to have a huge amount of training, typically starting from when they are a puppy and lasting up to 2 years. They also tend to be larger dogs, and ones which are renowned for their intelligence, which Frenchies certainly aren’t!
The types of breeds typically working as service dogs include:
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Saint Bernard’s
- Standard Poodles
The types of things a service dog can do includes:
- Guiding a blind person
- Pulling a person in a wheelchair
- Warn about epileptic seizures
- Protect owners from criminals (plus as guard dogs)
Service dogs will normally wear a highly-reflective jacket or collar which lets the public identify the dog’s role and situation with the owner.
Handy Hint: You can read more here about Frenchies being service dogs.
What are therapy dogs?
French Bulldogs can make for very good therapy dogs, as the role of this pet is to provide comfort and support – and Frenchies have these characteristics in abundance.
However, unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are not given the same type of permitted access to public transport networks, stores, and other public buildings – as you might see a guide dog for example.
The types of places you might find a therapy dog include:
- Care homes
- Children’s homes
- Disaster areas and other stressful situations
- Old people’s homes
- Schools and colleges
By far the most important trait that a therapy dog must have is a good and loving temperament. They need to be friendly, gentle, relaxed, and be able to be petted or handled.
Their primary role is to provide comfort to people and be able to accept physical contact.
Based on these traits, it’s no wonder that so many people think of French Bulldogs as good therapy dogs!
Did You Know? It’s not just dogs that can provide therapy. Cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and even horses are also used as therapy animals.
What science says about therapy dogs
Don’t just take my word for it. Whilst I firmly believe that French Bulldogs are good therapy dogs due to their nature and character, there’s also science to back it up.
- Dogs reduce stress instantly (see study).
- Dogs reduce blood pressure better than drugs go (see study).
- Dogs reduce study stress in students (see study).
- Dogs can help to reduce PTSD in disaster zones (see study).
Jemma and I have owned Claude the Frenchie for nearly three years now. In that time, we’ve witnessed first-hand how adults and children react to our French Bulldog when we’re out and about.
I’ve also taken Claude into visit my great aunt who lives in a care home. He’s an absolute rock star when he turns up and puts huge smiles on everyone’s face wherever he goes.
The bottom line is; we believe that French Bulldogs are good therapy dogs.
With their happy and friendly disposition, cuddly nature, and loving behaviour, how could they not reduce your stress and make you smile?
Handy Hint: Did you know Frenchies can actually smile. I’ve compiled a collection of the best French Bulldog smile photos for you to share and enjoy.