Seasoned travelers are undoubtedly familiar with airport therapy dogs. Airports have utilized humankind’s best friend for decades. However, travel and general life anxieties have risen in nearly the last two years. It is fully conceivable that we need these airport therapy dogs in airports now more than ever for both frequent and reluctant flyers.
What’s an Airport Therapy Dog?
Airports induce stress even in the most ideal circumstances. Even if you do not experience a long wait in the security line, you still need to rush to remove your shoes. You also need to be sure to reveal all technological equipment and then make sure you can account for it all after. Many people in the past drowned these anxieties at the airport bar. Others might have tried to get an airport massage before their flight.
But airport therapy dogs can create a better – and frankly, a less expensive – airport experience. They are not new to airports either. San Jose International Airport (SJC) in California introduced therapy dogs to its terminals shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. The airport’s chaplain volunteer tested the practice by bringing in her trained therapy dog. After seeing positive results, SJC started an official therapy dog program.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has also implemented a therapy dog program. The LAX Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program had over 100 therapy dogs prior to the pandemic. In 2019, volunteers logged about 5,200 hours with the program. First developed in 2013, LAX’s program has become the largest one in the country.
Can Dogs Really Relieve Stress?
Researchers continue to study the positive and negative consequences of human-animal interactions. However, certain studies indicate that interacting with animals can provide a number of positive health effects. In certain cases, humans engaging with animals lowers cortisol levels, which is a stress-related hormone. Animals can also reduce blood pressure, loneliness, and boost feelings of social support.
When it comes to the availability of airport therapy dogs, accessibility varies throughout the country. Before the coronavirus pandemic, 87 North American airports offered programs for therapy dogs. Airports have gradually reinstated therapy dog volunteers as travel and health restrictions have lifted. By September 2021, 35 of the airports reintroduced their programs.
Who Do Airport Therapy Dogs Help?
The good news is, airport therapy dogs can potentially benefit anyone who feels comfortable approaching them. You can visit with these therapy dogs if you are younger, older, traveling alone, or flying for business. Some adults will even lie on the floor or get selfies with therapy dogs. The furry travel friends evidently act as a welcome reprieve during the airport hustle.
In some cases, passengers with medical concerns can even benefit from these airport dogs. One existing airport therapy dog program is Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) PIT PAWS (Pups Alleviating Worry and Stress). Passengers at the airport have told Tara Hoover, who works as the head of the program, that they did not need to take anxiety medications due to Pittsburgh’s soothing airport therapy dogs.