Therapy dogs have been introduced to the terminals at Brisbane Airport to help soothe stressed travellers’ pre-flight jitters.
For two days on July 11 and 12, certified therapy dogs Cooper, Kevin, and their canine cohorts were stationed in the airport’s domestic terminal to provide calming, furry comfort to passengers.
The tail-wagging therapy team came courtesy of Therapy & Support Animals Australia, an organisation that trains and handles dogs for animal-assisted interventions.
Handler Nikki Bignell accompanied Cooper, a friendly Labradoodle, Kevin the cuddly Sheepadoodle, and the organisation’s “Stay & Train” puppy recruits as they made their rounds at the airport. The therapy puppies are completing training that may lead to future careers as service, assistance, or ongoing therapy animals.
Kevin the Sheepadoodle underwent Intensive Obedience Course at the Therapy & Support Animals Australia only last January whilst Cooper completed the Therapy Certificate Course in 2021.
For many people, air travel induces anxiety and apprehension. However, research shows that focusing on a therapy animal can significantly reduce fear and anxiety.
Petting an animal for even just one minute stimulates oxytocin production, the hormone associated with bonding, trust, and positive emotions. Interacting with therapy dogs also releases endorphins, diminishing feelings of pain, depression, and loneliness.
The floppy-eared therapists seemed to work their magic at the Brisbane Airport. Many travellers broke into wide smiles and stopped to lavish attention on the dogs, giving them hearty pats and cuddles.
Judging by the crowds drawn to Cooper, Kevin, and crew this week, it seems clear that therapy dogs have a bright future in airport customer service. Their ability to lift spirits and lower stress before flights is a welcome service for travellers. Future airport visits to train other therapy dogs may be scheduled soon.